Contact FutureLearn for Support
Skip main navigation
We use cookies to give you a better experience, if that’s ok you can close this message and carry on browsing. For more info read our cookies policy.
We use cookies to give you a better experience. Carry on browsing if you're happy with this, or read our cookies policy for more information.

Skip to 0 minutes and 13 secondsHello and welcome to week 3. This week, we discuss antibiotics and, specifically, azithromycin, as the "A" component of the SAFE strategy. Azithromycin is given to the whole, eligible population of trachoma endemic communities in order to treat chlamydial infection and to reduce its transmission. The strategy for antibiotic distribution is called Mass Drug Administration or MDA. MDA is also used to treat several other tropical infectious diseases, including onchocerciasis and lymphatic filariasis. Azithromycin, whose trade name is Zithromax, is donated by Pfizer for trachoma control as part of the SAFE strategy. International NGOs partner with ministries of health to obtain antibiotic and also to support the logistics of MDA.

Skip to 1 minute and 14 secondsThis week we will discuss which communities require azithromycin, who is eligible to receive it, and the frequency and duration of treatment, and how to achieve high MDA coverage while ensuring accountability and safety of [the] medicine. I hope you enjoy this week.

Welcome to week 3: A is for antibiotics

Antibiotics are used to reduce the force of transmission of ocular Chlamydia trachomatis in endemic communities. Some of the questions that you might have about antibiotic treatment include:

  • What dose is required to provide effective treatment?
  • Can it be a single dose or do we have to carry out repeated treatments?
  • What level of coverage is needed?
  • Once antibiotic treatment is stopped, what is the likelihood of trachoma coming back?

For many years, topical tetracycline ointment was the main antibiotic used to treat trachoma. However, tetracycline requires prolonged courses: six weeks of twice-daily application into both eyes, and it stings the eyes slightly when it goes in. Following many years of rigorous research, azithromycin is now preferred as the antibiotic of choice for trachoma. Pfizer donates huge quantities of branded azithromycin (Zithromax) to trachoma elimination programmes all over the world, through the International Trachoma Initiative.

Azithromycin is given as a safe (non-toxic) single oral dose. It is ideal for mass distribution as there is no need for individual diagnosis, and treatment can be given by primary health workers and volunteers. In addition, azithromycin is a broad spectrum antibiotic and treats respiratory, skin and genital infections at the same time, so is generally very well accepted by communities.

In a trachoma-endemic area, repeated mass treatment is usually needed to achieve programme targets. It must also be accompanied by the F and E components of the SAFE strategy to sustainably eliminate trachoma.

This week, we look closely at who and how to treat, how to coordinate and manage mass distribution and, importantly, knowing when to stop.

Ask trachoma experts: Q&A

Our team of trachoma experts will come together this week to share their experiences and look at the scientific considerations that guide decision making at a programmatic and clinical level. At the end of the session they will take time to answer your questions.

Post your questions to the panel in the Comments area on step 3.11 Q&A: Strategies for S and A by 11pm UTC on Tuesday October 17th. You will be able to watch the discussion on YouTube and download the transcript from step 3.11 after 5pm UTC on Thursday October 19th.

Share this video:

This video is from the free online course:

Eliminating Trachoma

London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine

Course highlights Get a taste of this course before you join: