Trachoma vaccine rises hope for eradication of trachoma- one of the neglected tropical diseases.
The Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole has revealed that at least 1.3 million Nigerians have been vaccinated with trachoma vaccine, even as the figure has decreased from 22 million to 13 million in five years.

Trachoma is an eye condition which leads to blindness and is caused by dirty water, lack of sanitation and hygiene and is one of the non-communicable disease in sub Saharan Africa.

Adewole made this disclosure at the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust in Abuja recently, themed “Eliminating Trachoma in Nigeria”.

Organised by Sight Savers, a non-governmental organisation, the programme which started in 2014 has recorded huge successes which includes the mapping of some states like Yobe and Jigawa, where the disease has been worrisome.

The minister who was represented by the Director, Health Research, Planning and Statistics, Dr. Emmanuel Meribole, said water, sanitation and hygiene strategies have been promoted, while emphasising that eradicating the disease or bringing it to the barest minimum is achievable even as the programme full cycle ends by 2020.He said: “Nigeria has 40 per cent burden of non-tropical diseases and several measures have been put in place to checkmate this. This includes multi-sectoral approach and every eligible person is expected to have access to healthcare facilities.

“Over 1.3 million people have been reached with trachoma vaccines. Endemic local government areas have been reached and supported with mass enlightenment. Water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) strategies have been promoted and even though the programme is reaching full cycle in 2020, eradicating trachoma is achievable.

“Close to 22 million were at risk of contracting trachoma. Now the figure has reduced to 13 million which is a huge success. Mapping has been done in 15 local governments in Jigawa and in all the local government areas in Yobe. Already, five million have been treated.”

Similarly, the Chief Executive Officer, Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust, Dr. Astrid Bonfield, said the foundation has provided more than 5.2 million vital antibiotic treatments to stop trachoma from spreading and has provided 9,700 pain relieving and sight saving surgeries.

She added that the programme has also trained and certified 35 Nigerian surgeons to provide its crucial treatment while 16,000 case finders were also trained to locate people in need of treatment and direct them to services.

The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust is a charitable foundation established in 2012 by the Commonwealth heads of government to mark and celebrate Her Majesty, the queen’s 60- year contribution to the Commonwealth at the time of her Diamond Jubilee.

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Trachoma is a chronic kerato-conjunctivitis caused specifically by the organism Chlamydia traehomatis serotype A, B, Ba or C. Other pathological micro-organisms are often responsible for some aspects of the disease. During the contagious inflammatory stage, the disease is characterized by the presence of special granulations or follicles,accompanied by intense diffuse infiltration and papillary hypertrophy of the conjunctiva and extension of blood vessels to the surface of the cornea.
Trachomatous inflammation of lhe eye either disappears spontaneously or progresses towards conjunctival cicatrization that may lead to inward deviation of the eyelid margin (entropion), or a distorted growth of the eyelashes (trichiasis). The deviated eyelashes may irritate the cornea and result in ulceration and opacification of the cornea.

In benign cases, the trachoma heals without causing any permanent loss of vision. In severe cases, however, it may lead to definite and incapacitating corneal lesions. The ultimate result of trachomatous infection, therefore, varies from normal vision to total blindness according to the degree of corneal damage.
Trachoma is estimated to affect 500 million people and is one of the four most serious preventable or curable blinding diseases.

It is widespread, and the worst affected areas are North Africa, the Middle East and certain regions in Africa and southern Asia. Trachoma is often associated with bacterial infections that aggravate the disease and facilitate transmission which is by direct contact or by flies that abound in areas of poor water supply and environmental hygiene.

The advent of the trachoma vaccine has led to a marked reduction in this neglected tropical disease.

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