A team at the University of Melbourne in Australia is keeping its eye on the health of indigenous Australian children.
The researchers have found that in some parts of the country, 4% of indigenous children are developing active trachoma infections. Trachoma is a contagious bacterial infection of the eye and the world’s leading cause of preventable blindness. In the Northern Territory of Australia, the rate of infection is currently 5%, which is considered an endemic level, say the researchers. Trachoma was thought to have been eradicated more than 100 years in Australia ago due to improved sanitary conditions. Chlamydia trachomatis, the bacterium that causes trachoma, creates swelling under the inner eyelid and then scarring. The scars cause the eyelashes to grow inward, scratching the eye and resulting in excessive blinking, which exacerbates the discomfort. Eventually, the scratched corneas turn cloudy, resulting in irreversible blindness.
Children spread trachoma and reinfect each other via eye and nose secretions. Says the research team, a child may endure between 160 and 180 episodes of reinfection until blindness occurs.
Suffering children are likely to live in remote Aboriginal communities, where they go largely unnoticed.
In 2009, the country’s health officials committed to the elimination of trachoma, which affected 20% of children at that time.
Globally, in 2016, an estimated 200 million people in 42 countries are at risk of contracting trachoma. These are people living in underserved communities in sub-Saharan Africa, Afghanistan, India, Brazil, Colombia and some Pacific Island nations.
Category: Summer 2016