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Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2009 Jan;50(1):90-4. doi: 10.1167/iovs.08-2247. Epub 2008 Aug 8.

Detection of Chlamydia trachomatis ocular infection in trachoma-endemic communities by rRNA amplification.

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  • 1F. I. Proctor Foundation, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, CA 94143, USA.



Trachoma remains the leading infectious cause of blindness worldwide. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends mass antibiotic distributions in its strategy to eliminate blinding trachoma. To determine the most effective antibiotic treatment strategy, it is essential to have a diagnostic test that can correctly measure the true status of ocular Chlamydia trachomatis infection in individuals, particularly after treatment. A newer ribosomal ribonucleic acid (rRNA)-based amplification test was compared with the current DNA-based polymerase chain reaction (PCR) for the detection of C. trachomatis.


An rRNA-based assay and PCR were performed on swab specimens taken from the right upper tarsal conjunctiva of 240 children aged 1 to 5 years living among 16 endemic villages in the Gurage Zone, Ethiopia.


The rRNA-based test detected ocular C. trachomatis infection in 142 (59%) subjects compared with 67 (28%) detected by PCR (McNemar's test, P < 0.0001). The rRNA-based test gave positive results for all subjects who were positive by PCR and detected infection in 75 (31%) additional subjects.


The rRNA-based test appears to have significantly greater sensitivity than PCR for the detection of ocular C. trachomatis infection in children in trachoma-endemic villages. The increased sensitivity of the rRNA-based test may be due to its ability to detect low levels of C. trachomatis infection in individuals, which can occur especially after antibiotic treatment. Data from past studies in which PCR was used to assess the prevalence of infectious trachoma after community-wide antibiotic treatments could have underestimated the true prevalence of infection.

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