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Mass azithromycin distribution for hyperendemic trachoma following a cluster-randomized trial: A continuation study of randomly reassigned subclusters (TANA II).

Abstract

In all, 48 communities with 3,938 children aged 0-9 years at baseline in northern Ethiopia had received 4 years of annual or twice yearly mass azithromycin distribution as part of the TANA I trial. We randomized these communities to either continuation or discontinuation of treatment. Individuals in the communities in the continuation arm were offered either annual or twice yearly distribution of a single directly observed dose of oral azithromycin. The primary outcome was community prevalence of ocular chlamydial infection in a random sample of children aged 0-9 years, 36 months after baseline. We also assessed the change from baseline to 36 months in ocular chlamydia prevalence within each arm. We compared 36-month ocular chlamydia prevalence in communities randomized to continuation versus discontinuation in a model adjusting for baseline ocular chlamydia prevalence. A secondary prespecified analysis assessed the rate of change over time in ocular chlamydia prevalence between arms. In the continuation arm, mean antibiotic coverage was greater than 90% at all time points. In the discontinuation arm, the mean prevalence of infection in children aged 0-9 years increased from 8.3% (95% CI 4.2% to 12.4%) at 0 months to 14.7% (95% CI 8.7% to 20.8%, P = 0.04) at 36 months. Ocular chlamydia prevalence in communities where mass azithromycin distribution was continued was 7.2% (95% CI 3.3% to 11.0%) at baseline and 6.6% (95% CI 1.1% to 12.0%, P = 0.64) at 36 months. The 36-month prevalence of ocular chlamydia was significantly lower in communities continuing treatment compared with those discontinuing treatment (P = 0.03). Limitations of the study include uncertain generalizability outside of trachoma hyperendemic regions.

In this study, ocular chlamydia infection rebounded after 4 years of periodic mass azithromycin distribution. Continued distributions did not completely eliminate infection in all communities or meet WHO control goals, although they did prevent resurgence.

This study was prospectively registered at clinicaltrials.gov (clinicaltrials.gov NCT01202331).

The World Health Organization recommends annual mass azithromycin administration in communities with at least 10% prevalence of trachomatous inflammation-follicular (TF) in children, with further treatment depending on reassessment after 3-5 years. However, the effect of stopping mass azithromycin distribution after multiple rounds of treatment is not well understood. Here, we report the results of a cluster-randomized trial where communities that had received 4 years of treatments were then randomized to continuation or discontinuation of treatment.

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