Trachoma (truh-KOH-muh) is a bacterial infection that affects your eyes. It's contagious, spreading through contact with the eyes, eyelids, and nose or throat secretions of infected people. It can also be passed on by handling infected items, such as handkerchiefs.Trachoma is the leading infectious cause of ocular morbidity. This disease is a chronic keratoconjunctivitis caused by the obligate intracellular bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis. Repeated episodes of reinfection within the family cause chronic follicular or intense conjunctival inflammation (active trachoma), which leads to tarsal conjunctival scarring.
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.After years of targeted funding and research, trachoma has been wiped out in some regions and the WHO aims to vanquish it in remaining places by 2020. (Learn more in the related article about blindness from trachoma and trichiasis.) Research funded by the NIH's National Eye Institute (NEI) is playing a crucial role by identifying effective antibiotic regimens to combat the scourge. These include determining how often to administer treatment, what portion of a community must be reached and how to prevent re-infection.