Dr. Sheila West, the El-Maghraby professor of preventive ophthalmology at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, will give a lecture titled “New Directions for Trachoma Control: Lessons from the STAR and PRET Trials for Trachoma in Africa.” The talk, to be held on Wednesday, November 10 at 2 p.m. in Building. 31, Room. 6C10, is sponsored by the trans-NIH global health working group. West’s lecture is part of a series of occasional seminars examining best practices in the planning and conduct of international clinical trials, especially those in low- and middle-income settings.
Trachoma, an ocular disease caused by Chlamydia trachomatis infection, is a leading cause of blindness in the developing world. Repeated infections can lead to trichiasis, a sight-threatening condition in which the eyelids turn inward, causing the eyelashes to scrape and damage the cornea. Through the Surgery for Trichiasis, Antibiotics to prevent Recurrence (STAR) trial, West and colleagues established that surgery followed by a single dose of azithromycin significantly reduces the recurrence of blinding trichiasis. In other work, investigators have established that a biannual dose of azithromycin given over 3 years can eliminate trachoma in hyperendemic areas. Subsequent analysis found that this treatment regimen also significantly reduced childhood mortality.
In recognition of this work, Johns Hopkins received a $10 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to accelerate progress toward eliminating the disease. West leads the Gates Foundation-funded Partnership for the Rapid Elimination of Trachoma, which also includes the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine; the University of California, San Francisco; Pfizer, Inc.; the World Health Organization; and the Trachoma Control Programs at the ministries of health in Tanzania, Ethiopia and the Gambia.