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WHO announces a sustained progress in eliminating trachoma – expert comment

The number of people at risk of trachoma – the world’s leading infectious cause of blindness – has fallen from 1.5 billion in 2002 to just over 142 million in 2019, a reduction of 91%, the World Health Organization (WHO) has reported.

New data presented at the 22nd meeting of the WHO Alliance for the Global Elimination of Trachoma by 2020 (GET 2020) also show that the number of people requiring surgery for trachomatous trichiasis – the late, blinding stage of trachoma – has dropped from 7.6 million in 2002 to 2.5 million in 2019, a reduction of 68%.

To collect the most robust data on trachoma prevalence, WHO used Tropical Data, a data-collection initiative that helps countries carry out surveys as they work towards eliminating trachoma. The London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) is one of a consortium of partners that run Tropical Data.

Responding to the announcement, Emma Harding-Esch, Chief Scientist for Tropical Data from LSHTM, said:

“Today’s announcement shows that great progress has been made in work to eliminate trachoma. However, this is not the time to be complacent as 44 countries are still known to require interventions for trachoma.

“Tropical Data is an end-to-end epidemiological support service which assists health ministries across the world conduct standardised, high-quality epidemiologically robust trachoma prevalence surveys.

“It is the only service of its kind providing prevalence data which are critically important for targeting and prioritising public health interventions for trachoma, helping validate countries as trachoma-free and identifying where there is still work to be done.

“Tropical Data means that health ministries and their partners can have confidence in the data generated, which are instrumental in aiding programmatic decision-making and for efficiently allocating scarce resources.

“As the Chief Scientist for Tropical Data, I am honoured to be working alongside endemic countries and their partners to achieve elimination of trachoma.”

 

About Tropical Data

Tropical Data is a consortium of scientific, technological and implementing partners. LSHTM provides scientific oversight, the International Trachoma Initiative (ITI) provides the core data management service, RTI International manages the system technology and supports the super trainings, Sightsavers provides project management, documentation, budgeting and training packages, and the WHO sets standards and protects country interests.

Tropical Data builds on the methodologies developed and implemented by the Global Trachoma Mapping Project (GTMP), the largest infectious disease mapping exercise ever undertaken, which completed baseline mapping in 1546 districts in all accessible suspected trachoma-endemic countries between 2012-2016.

Since February 2016, Tropical Data has supported more than 1500 surveys across 38 countries, examining nearly 4.7 million people. This has allowed 109,511,552 worth of treatments to be leveraged to support mass drug administration (MDA), confirmed that MDA can be stopped in 485 Evaluation Units (EUs), confirmed that MDA is not needed in 220 EUs, and helped countries confirm completion of pre-validation surveillance in 264 EUs.