Serology, infection, and clinical trachoma as tools in prevalence surveys for re-emergence of trachoma in a formerly hyperendemic district

Michelle Odonkor, Fahd Naufal, Beatriz Munoz, Harran Mkocha, Mabula Kasubi, Meraf Wolle, Sheila West

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background To eliminate trachoma as a public health problem, countries must achieve a district-level prevalence of trachomatous inflammation—follicular (TF) <5% in children ages 1–9 years. Re-emergence of TF could trigger additional rounds of mass drug/antibiotic administration (MDA), so accurate tools for use in surveys assessing trachoma prevalence are essential. Methodology & principal findings We surveyed 2401 children ages 1–9 years from 50 villages in Kongwa, Tanzania, 2 years post-MDA and 1.5 years after an impact survey found TF <5% in the same villages. Our survey included multiple tools: clinical determination of TF, Cepheid testing for Chlamydia trachomatis infection, and testing for anti-pgp3 antibodies via multiplex bead array. Photographs of the upper tarsal conjunctiva were taken in a subset of children to corroborate the field grades. Overall TF prevalence in 1–9 year olds was 7.1% (95% CI: 5.6%-8.9%), which decreased with age (p = <0.0001). TF prevalence by village was heterogeneous, with 19 villages having TF <5% and 16 villages having TF >10%. There was a strong correlation between field and photo grading of TF (kappa = 0.69; 95% CI: 0.60–0.78) and between TF and infection, with 21.5% of TF-positive children also testing positive for infection, as compared to only 1.6% of TF-negative children (p = 0.0010). Overall seroprevalence was 18.2% (95% CI: 14.8%22.1%), which increased with age (p = <0.0001). Notably, 1–2 year olds, who were born after the cessation of MDA and theoretically should not have had exposure to C. trachomatis in the absence of transmission, had an average seroprevalence of 6.7%. Conclusions & significance Field TF prevalence, supported by photographic review and infection data, suggested reemergence of trachoma in Kongwa. Moreover, seropositivity in the children born after cessation of MDA indicated exposure to C. trachomatis despite a previous survey finding of TF <5%. Examining seropositivity in specific age groups expected to have limited exposure to C. trachomatis can be used to detect re-emergence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0009343
JournalPLoS neglected tropical diseases
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Infectious Diseases


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