A Social and Economic Burden
Trachoma is caused by the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis, which after repeated infection scars the interior of the eyelid and causes it to turn inward, which is called trichiasis. The eyelashes scrape against a person’s eyes with each blink, causing painful ulcers and blindness if not treated with antibiotics or a simple surgical procedure. Trachoma is both a cause and a consequence of poverty. There are 1.9 million people currently suffering visual impairment due to trachoma and 136 million people who remain at continued risk.i
A Coordinated Response
In 1998, Pfizer and the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation co-established the International Trachoma Initiative (ITI), dedicated to eliminating trachoma. As an independent program of the not-for-profit organization, The Task Force for Global Health, the ITI manages the allocation and distribution of Pfizer’s donated antibiotic, Zithromax® (azithromycin) as part of the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended SAFE strategy. ITI collaborates with governmental and nongovernmental agencies at local, national, and international levels to implement the SAFE strategy for trachoma control:
- Surgery to treat people suffering from the advanced stage of trachoma
- Antibiotics to prevent and treat infections
- Facial cleanliness to prevent infectious transmission
- Environmental improvement measures, such as increased access to water and sanitation to prevent further spread
A Steadfast Commitment
Through the ITI, Pfizer is partnering with the global health community to expand access and strengthen health systems now and far into the future. There are more than 100 partners working together to eliminate trachoma globally, including, governments, United Nations agencies, World Health Organization (WHO), United States Agency for International Development (USAID), CARE, CBM Global, FH1 360, Helen Keller International, International Coalition for Trachoma Control, Kilimanjaro Centre for Community Ophthalmology, Light for the World, Lions Clubs International, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, The Carter Center, The Fred Hollows Foundation, ORBIS International, RTI International, Sightsavers, Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins and World Vision.
While progress against several NTDs has plateaued and the COVID-19 pandemic caused major disruptions worldwide, progress against trachoma has persevered.
- Since its inception, ITI has helped deliver nearly 1 billion antibiotic doses, reaching more than 276 million people in more than 40 countries
- The global burden of trachoma has been reduced by over 91% since 2002ii and 15 countries have eliminated trachoma as a public health problem
- Additional ITI countries nearing elimination include Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Eritrea, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Senegal, Guatemala, Guinea Bissau and Vietnam
- In June 2022, Pfizer announced the extension of our antibiotic donation program to 2030, enabling continued trachoma elimination programs in more than 19 countries globally
To learn more about the International Trachoma Initiative, please visit www.Trachoma.org.
ii WHO Weekly epidemiological record. Weekly Epidemiol Rec. 2019; 94: 317-328