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Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2004;(3):CD003659.

Face washing promotion for preventing active trachoma.

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  • 1Cochrane Eyes and Vision Group, International Centre for Eye Health, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, Keppel Street, London, UK, WC1E 7HT.



Trachoma remains a major cause of avoidable blindness among underprivileged populations in many developing countries. It is estimated that about 146 million people have active trachoma and nearly six million people are blind due to complications associated with repeat infections.


The objective of this review is to assess the effects of face washing on the prevalence of active trachoma in endemic communities.


We searched the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials - CENTRAL (which contains the Cochrane Eyes and Vision Group trials register) on The Cochrane Library (Issue 2, 2004), MEDLINE (1966 to February 2004), EMBASE (1980 to February 2004), the reference lists of identified trials and the Science Citation Index. We also contacted investigators and experts in the field to identify additional trials.


We included randomised or quasi-randomised controlled trials, comparing face washing with no treatment or face washing combined with antibiotics against antibiotics alone. Participants in the trials were people normally resident in endemic trachoma communities.


Two reviewers independently extracted data and assessed trial quality. Study authors were contacted for additional information. Two clinically heterogeneous trials are included, therefore a meta-analysis was considered inappropriate.


This review includes two trials with data from a total of 2560 participants. Face washing combined with topical tetracycline was compared to topical tetracycline alone in three pairs of villages in one trial. The trial found a statistically significant effect for face washing combined with topical tetracycline in reducing 'severe' active trachoma compared to topical tetracycline alone. No statistically significant difference was observed between the intervention and control villages in reducing ('non-severe') active trachoma. The prevalence of clean faces was higher in the intervention villages than the control villages and this was statistically significant. Another trial compared eye washing to no treatment or to topical tetracycline alone or to a combination of eye washing and tetracycline drops in children with follicular trachoma. The trial found no statistically significant benefit of eye washing alone or in combination with tetracycline eye drops in reducing follicular trachoma amongst children with follicular trachoma.


There is some evidence that face washing combined with topical tetracycline can be effective in reducing severe trachoma and in increasing the prevalence of clean faces. Current evidence does not however support a beneficial effect of face washing alone or in combination with topical tetracycline in reducing active trachoma.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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