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PLoS Negl Trop Dis. Nov 2010; 4(11): e861.
Published online Nov 2, 2010. doi:  10.1371/journal.pntd.0000861
PMCID: PMC2970530

Trachoma Prevalence and Associated Risk Factors in The Gambia and Tanzania: Baseline Results of a Cluster Randomised Controlled Trial

Julius Schachter, Editor



Blinding trachoma, caused by ocular infection with Chlamydia trachomatis, is targeted for global elimination by 2020. Knowledge of risk factors can help target control interventions.

Methodology/Principal Findings

As part of a cluster randomised controlled trial, we assessed the baseline prevalence of, and risk factors for, active trachoma and ocular C. trachomatis infection in randomly selected children aged 0–5 years from 48 Gambian and 36 Tanzanian communities. Both children's eyes were examined according to the World Health Organization (WHO) simplified grading system, and an ocular swab was taken from each child's right eye and processed by Amplicor polymerase chain reaction to test for the presence of C. trachomatis DNA. Prevalence of active trachoma was 6.7% (335/5033) in The Gambia and 32.3% (1008/3122) in Tanzania. The countries' corresponding Amplicor positive prevalences were 0.8% and 21.9%. After adjustment, risk factors for follicular trachoma (TF) in both countries were ocular or nasal discharge, a low level of household head education, and being aged ≥1 year. Additional risk factors in Tanzania were flies on the child's face, being Amplicor positive, and crowding (the number of children per household). The risk factors for being Amplicor positive in Tanzania were similar to those for TF, with the exclusion of flies and crowding. In The Gambia, only ocular discharge was associated with being Amplicor positive.


These results indicate that although the prevalence of active trachoma and Amplicor positives were very different between the two countries, the risk factors for active trachoma were similar but those for being Amplicor positive were different. The lack of an association between being Amplicor positive and TF in The Gambia highlights the poor correlation between the presence of trachoma clinical signs and evidence of C. trachomatis infection in this setting. Only ocular discharge was associated with evidence of C. trachomatis DNA in The Gambia, suggesting that at this low endemicity, this may be the most important risk factor.

Trial Registration

ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00792922

Author Summary

Trachoma is caused by Chlamydia trachomatis and is the leading infectious cause of blindness. The World Health Organization's (WHO) control strategy includes antibiotic treatment of all community members, facial cleanliness, and environmental improvements. By determining how prevalent trachoma is, decisions can be made whether control activities need to be put in place. Knowing what factors make people more at risk of having trachoma can help target trachoma control efforts to those most at risk. We looked at the prevalence of active trachoma and C. trachomatis infection in the eyes of children aged 0–5 years in The Gambia and Tanzania. We also measured risk factors associated with having active trachoma or infection. The prevalence of both active trachoma and infection was lower in The Gambia (6.7% and 0.8%, respectively) than in Tanzania (32.3% and 21.9%, respectively). Risk factors for active trachoma were similar in the two countries. For infection, the risk factors in Tanzania were similar to those for TF, whereas in The Gambia, only ocular discharge was associated with infection. These results show that although the prevalence of active trachoma and infection is very different between the two countries, the risk factors for active trachoma are similar but those for infection are different.

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