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Trachoma, also called granular conjunctivitis, Egyptian ophthalmia and blinding trachoma is an infectious disease caused by the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis.The infection causes a roughening of the inner surface of the eyelids.The bacterium has an incubation period of 5 to 12 days, after which the affected individual experiences symptoms of conjunctivitis, or irritation similar to "pink eye." Blinding endemic trachoma results from multiple episodes of reinfection that maintains the intense inflammation in the conjunctiva. Without reinfection, the inflammation will gradually subside.
The WHO recommends 2 antibiotics for trachoma control: oral azithromycin and tetracycline eye ointment. Azithromycin eye drops have also been shown to be very effective. Azithromycin is better than tetracycline, but it is more expensive.The main treatment for active trachoma, caused by the Chlamydia trachomatis bacterium, is the antibiotic azithromycin. Mass treatment became economically feasible only in 1998 when the International Trachoma Initiative began making substantial quantities of azithromycin available at no cost. "We now had a single-dose antibiotic, which provided the impetus to fight this disease," recalls Dr. Sheila K. West, NEI grantee and professor at Johns Hopkins University.