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Medication, Money and Maps: How to Fight a Debilitating Eye Disease

FILE - Dr. Amir Bedri examines a trachoma patient in Ethiopia.
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In some of the world’s remotest corners, health workers armed with smartphones, digital maps and medication are making steady progress in eliminating trachoma, the world’s leading infectious cause of blindness, a leading expert said.

Better living conditions have wiped out trachoma in many countries but some 200 million people are still at risk of contracting the disease, according to the International Trachoma Initiative (ITI).

Trachoma is categorized by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a neglected tropical disease (NTD), one of a group of 18 debilitating and sometimes fatal illnesses that affect 1.5 billion people, mainly in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

Efforts to treat trachoma include improving access to clean water and decreasing the number of infected people by treating them with antibiotics.

ITI Director Paul Emerson said antibiotics donation programs, increased government spending, a global mapping project identifying hotspots and the use of smartphones to collect data had been gamechangers in fighting trachoma.

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