During mass antibiotic distributions for trachoma, certain individuals are difficult to locate, and go untreated. These untreated individuals may serve as a source of community re-infection. The importance of this difficult-to-locate, untreated population is unclear. We sought to determine whether individuals who are difficult to locate were more likely to be infected with ocular chlamydia than those who were easier to locate.
We monitored 12 Ethiopian communities 1 year after a third annual mass azithromycin treatment for trachoma. Conjunctival swabbing for chlamydial RNA was performed in a random sample of children from each community. If insufficient numbers of children were enrolled on the first monitoring day, we returned on subsequent days.
Of the 12 communities, 10 required more than 1 monitoring day. On average, 16.1% (95% CI 7.9–30.0) of children were enrolled after the initial day. Evidence of chlamydia was found in 7.1% (95% CI 2.7–17.4) of 0–9 year-old children. No ocular swabs collected after the initial day were positive for chlamydial RNA. Children examined after the initial monitoring day were significantly less likely to have ocular chlamydial infection than children seen on the initial day; Mantel-Haenszel common OR = 0 (95% CI 0 – 0.77).
In a setting of repeated annual mass azithromycin treatments, after approximately 80% of individuals have been located in a community, extra efforts to find absent individuals may not yield significantly more cases of ocular chlamydia.
Keywords: sampling bias, chlamydia, RNA, neglected diseases