Child having eye examined -Photo credit: Billy Weeks

Research to Solve Trachoma Elimination Challenges to Begin

6 new grant recipients named

Decatur, Georgia---The Coalition for Operational Research is pleased to announce the recipients of six grants for Operational research on tailored endgame strategies for persistent and recrudescent active trachoma.  According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, trachoma is the world’s leading cause of preventable blindness of infectious origin. The target of global elimination of trachoma is achievable, but there are a small minority of districts, in a few countries, in which the treatment strategy has not achieved the elimination goal as expected.

These news studies will be conducted to better understand the underlying causes of persistent and/or re-emerging trachoma. The studies will use new diagnostic indicators to help confirm where trachoma transmission is ongoing, as well as consider alternative approaches to find, treat and measure any populations that may have not participated in previous rounds of treatment. Financial support for these grants was generously provided by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (Gates Foundation). Special thanks to the International Trachoma Initiative, World Health Organization (WHO) Headquarters and WHO-AFRO Regional Office.

“The advancement and acceleration of trachoma elimination globally has not come without some barriers and challenges, and so for these reasons USAID is pleased to contribute to the design and funding of these projects investigating these final-mile challenges,” said Joe Shott, Health Scientist, Division of Neglected Tropical Diseases, U.S. Agency for International Development.

“Disease elimination is challenging, but these six country-led studies will generate high-quality evidence to shape the endgame strategies for trachoma elimination. Importantly, these studies will generate local solutions tailored to address the unique challenges faced by each country,” said Simon Brooker, Deputy Director, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Congratulations to these recipients.

“We are pleased to support these operational research studies, led by such experienced and dedicated PIs. The study results will provide important insight into the tools and actions that can be taken to help countries overcome the remaining barriers to achieving elimination of trachoma,” said Katie Gass, Director of Research for the Neglected Tropical Diseases Support Center, the COR-NTD Secretariat.

Caused by the bacterium, Chlamydia trachomatis, trachoma is found in areas that lack adequate access to water and sanitation. It spreads through contact, such as shared towels and cloths, or from flies that have contact with the eyes or nose of an infected person. If left untreated, trachoma can cause the eyelashes to turn inward and scratch the cornea (trichiasis). In addition to causing pain, trichiasis permanently damages the cornea and can lead to irreversible blindness. Thankfully, the drug Zithromax® can treat the infection, and this drug has been donated by Pfizer to treat all people living in at-risk areas, through a process called mass drug administration. To date, 17 countries have eliminated trachoma, but it remains a public health problem in 41 countries with 158 million people living in areas at risk for the disease.

The Coalition for Operational Research on Neglected Tropical Diseases (COR-NTD) includes researchers, program implementers, and their partners with the shared goal of optimizing the control and elimination of neglected tropical diseases. The aim of COR-NTD is to create new synergies within the operational research arena for neglected tropical diseases and to align that research with programs’ needs.