Can We Use Antibodies to Chlamydia trachomatis as a Surveillance Tool for National Trachoma Control Programs? Results from a District Survey.

West SK, Munoz B, Weaver J, Mrango Z, Dize L, Gaydos C, Quinn TC, Martin DL


Trachoma is targeted for elimination by 2020. World Health Organization advises districts to undertake surveillance when follicular trachoma (TF) <5% in children 1-9 years and mass antibiotic administration has ceased. There is a question if other tools could be used for surveillance as well. We report data from a test for antibodies to C. trachomatis antigen pgp3 as a possible tool.


We randomly sampled 30 hamlets in Kilosa district, Tanzania, and randomly selected 50 children ages 1-9 per hamlet. The tarsal conjunctivae were graded for trachoma (TF), tested for C. trachomatis infection (Aptima Combo2 assay: Hologic, San Diego, CA), and a dried blood spot processed for antibodies to C. trachomatis pgp3 using a multiplex bead assay on a Luminex 100 platform.


The prevalence of trachoma (TF) was 0.4%, well below the <5% indicator for re-starting a program. Infection was also low, 1.1%. Of the 30 hamlets, 22 had neither infection nor TF. Antibody positivity overall was low, 7.5% and increased with age from 5.2% in 1-3 year olds, to 9.3% in 7-9 year olds (p = 0.015). In 16 of the 30 hamlets, no children ages 1-3 years had antibodies to pgp3.


The antibody status of the 1-3 year olds indicates low cumulative exposure to infection during the surveillance period. Four years post MDA, there is no evidence for re-emergence of follicular trachoma.