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      The Global Burden of Trachoma: A Review

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      PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases

      Public Library of Science

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          Trachoma is the commonest infectious cause of blindness worldwide. Recurrent infection of the ocular surface by Chlamydia trachomatis, the causative agent, leads to inturning of the eyelashes (trichiasis) and blinding corneal opacification. Trachoma is endemic in more than 50 countries. It is currently estimated that there are about 1.3 million people blind from the disease and a further 8.2 million have trichiasis. Several estimates for the burden of disease from trachoma have been made, giving quite variable results. The variation is partly because different prevalence data have been used and partly because different sequelae have been included. The most recent estimate from the WHO placed it at around 1.3 million Disability-Adjusted Life Years (DALYs). A key issue in producing a reliable estimate of the global burden of trachoma is the limited amount of reliable survey data from endemic regions.

          Author Summary

          This review examines the various attempts to estimate the burden of disease from trachoma, the commonest infectious cause of blindness worldwide. Reports vary considerably because of differences in methodology and changing estimates of the number of people affected. Currently about 1.3 million are blind from trachoma and it causes about 1.3 million Disability-Adjusted Life Years (DALYs). The limited amount of survey data available from endemic regions remains a problem in generating accurate estimates. The effect of the disease may be underestimated as some of the disabling sequelae are not included in the calculation.

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          Most cited references 43

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          Global data on visual impairment in the year 2002.

          This paper presents estimates of the prevalence of visual impairment and its causes in 2002, based on the best available evidence derived from recent studies. Estimates were determined from data on low vision and blindness as defined in the International statistical classification of diseases, injuries and causes of death, 10th revision. The number of people with visual impairment worldwide in 2002 was in excess of 161 million, of whom about 37 million were blind. The burden of visual impairment is not distributed uniformly throughout the world: the least developed regions carry the largest share. Visual impairment is also unequally distributed across age groups, being largely confined to adults 50 years of age and older. A distribution imbalance is also found with regard to gender throughout the world: females have a significantly higher risk of having visual impairment than males. Notwithstanding the progress in surgical intervention that has been made in many countries over the last few decades, cataract remains the leading cause of visual impairment in all regions of the world, except in the most developed countries. Other major causes of visual impairment are, in order of importance, glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy and trachoma.
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            A simple system for the assessment of trachoma and its complications.

            A simple grading system for trachoma, based on the presence or absence of five selected "key" signs, has been developed. The method was tested in the field and showed good observer agreement, the most critical point being the identification of severe cases of the disease. It is expected that the system will facilitate the assessment of trachoma and its complications by non-specialist health personnel working at the community level.
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              Trachoma: global magnitude of a preventable cause of blindness.

              Trachoma is the leading cause of infectious blindness worldwide. It is known to be highly correlated with poverty, limited access to healthcare services and water. In 2003, the WHO estimated that 84 million people were suffering from active trachoma, and 7.6 million were severely visually impaired or blind as a result of trachoma: this study provides an updated estimate of the global prevalence of trachoma based on the most recent information available. A literature search of recent published and unpublished surveys in the 57 endemic countries was carried out: the result of surveys that used the WHO trachoma grading system and additional information from regional and country experts served as a basis to determine the prevalence of trachoma in each country. Population-based surveys provided recent information for 42 out of 57 endemic countries. 40.6 million people are estimated to be suffering from active trachoma, and 8.2 million are estimated to have trichiasis. The current estimate of prevalence of trachoma is lower than the previous WHO estimates: this can be explained by the success in implementing control strategy, by more accurate data, as well as by socio-economic development in endemic countries.

                Author and article information

                Role: Editor
                PLoS Negl Trop Dis
                PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases
                Public Library of Science (San Francisco, USA )
                October 2009
                27 October 2009
                : 3
                : 10
                Department of Infectious and Tropical Diseases, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, United Kingdom
                London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, United Kingdom
                Author notes
                Burton, Mabey. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
                Page count
                Pages: 7
                Public Health and Epidemiology/Epidemiology
                Public Health and Epidemiology/Infectious Diseases

                Infectious disease & Microbiology


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