Prof Matthew Burton
Professor of Global Eye Health
International Centre for Eye Health
Professor Matthew Burton is the Director of the International Centre for Eye Health (ICEH) and Professor of Global Eye Health at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM).
The International Centre for Eye Health (ICEH) is an interdisciplinary group of more than fifty research clinicians, public health specialists, epidemiologists, laboratory scientists and research assistants. The ICEH team collaborate closely with academic, Ministry of Health and NGO partners from around the world, working to improve eye health in low and middle-income countries.
Prof. Burton studied medicine at the University of Cambridge. His post-graduate training was in Oxford and at Moorfields Eye Hospital, London. He joined ICEH in 2000. He was based at the MRC Laboratories, The Gambia (2001-2003), whilst doing his PhD on trachoma, for which he received the LSHTM’s Woodruff Medal. After the completion of ophthalmology specialist training, he spent four years based at KCMC Hospital, Moshi, Tanzania (2008-2012), where he helped to establish trachoma research programmes in Tanzania and Ethiopia. Currently he leads ongoing research work on trachoma in Ethiopia and corneal infection in Uganda, Tanzania and Nepal.
Prof. Burton is the co-chair of Lancet Global Health Commission on Global Eye Health. Through new and existing research, this Commission harnesses lessons learned from over two decades, presents the growing evidence for the life-transforming impact of eye care, and provides a thorough understanding of rapid developments in the field. This report was created through a broad consultation involving experts within and outside the eye health sector to help inform governments and other stakeholders about the path forwards for eye health beyond 2020, to further the Sustainable Development Goals (including universal health coverage), and work towards a world without avoidable vision loss and where people with existing vision impairment are included and cared for.
Prof. Burton was the Director of the Commonwealth Eye Health Consortium, funded by the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust. The Consortium supported public health and research capacity development, sub-specialist ophthalmology training, health systems strengthening and technology development for eye health professionals.
Prof. Burton holds a Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellowship and is an Honorary Consultant Ophthalmologist in Cornea & External Eye Disease at Moorfields Eye Hospital, London. In 2022 Prof. Burton was elected a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Science.
Prof. Burton’s main research focus is ocular infection (trachoma and corneal infection); in addition, he works on cataract, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy ocular surface squamous neoplasia, population eye health surveys and technology development. Clinical trials form a major component of the group’s work.
Trachoma remains the commonest infectious cause of blindness in the world. Our trachoma research has involved several clinical trials to improve the treatment of trachomatous trichiasis, quality of life, studies investigating the immunopathogenic basis of this disease, and developing more effective control strategies. For example, a trichiasis surgery trial found substantially better outcomes from one particular operation, leading to changes in policy and practice in trachoma endemic countries. Currently the team are working with colleagues in Ethiopia on a major programme of trachoma research called Stronger-SAFE. This is seeking to understand the routes and determinants of ocular Chlamydia trachomatis transmission, develop interventions to suppress these, and to test these alongside enhanced antibiotic treatment schedules in a cluster randomised trial.
Corneal infection or microbial keratitis is a relatively common and devastating problem in tropical regions, where fungal pathogens account for >50%. The research in Uganda, Tanzania, Nepal and India is investigating the epidemiology, microbiology, susceptibility patterns and pathophysiology of severe corneal infections, particularly those caused by fungi. We are developing and evaluating diagnostic tools and conducting a series of clinical intervention trials.
Ocular surface squamous neoplasia is a common and aggressive eye cancer in East Africa and elsewhere. With colleagues in Kenya, we have investigated the epidemiology, pathophysiology and diagnostic tools, and conducted a placebo-controlled trial of post-operative 5-fluorouracil eye drops, finding a substantial reduction in recurrent tumours.
Glaucoma is a major cause of blindness, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa. Our studies are focusing on developing and evaluating low-cost tools for glaucoma detection and evaluating treatment strategies. With colleagues in Tanzania, we recently conducted a randomised clinical trial of a laser procedure (Selective Laser Trabeculoplasty) compared to standard eye drop treatment (timolol), and found that the laser was substantially better.
The team have developed and tested a package of mobile phone-based applications and data management systems for eye care called Peek. This enables the user to conduct an initial assessment and to record data in remote locations. We have tested these in several large cluster randomised controlled trials. The systems are now being used by eye care providers in multiple countries.