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author:("mabel, David")
1.  Cervicovaginal HIV-1 Shedding in Women Taking Antiretroviral Therapy in Burkina Faso: A Longitudinal Study 
Antiretroviral therapy (ART) reduces transmission of HIV-1. However, genital HIV-1 can be detected in patients on ART. We analyzed factors associated with genital HIV-1 shedding among high-risk women on ART in Burkina Faso.
Plasma viral load (PVL) and enriched cervicovaginal lavage HIV-1 RNA were measured every 3–6 months for up to 8 years. Random-effects logistic and linear regression models were used to analyze associations of frequency and quantity of genital HIV-1 RNA with behavioral and biological factors, adjusting for within-woman correlation. The lower limit of detection of HIV-1 RNA in plasma and eCVL samples was 300 copies per milliliter.
One hundred and eighty-eight participants initiated ART from 2004 to 2011. PVL was detectable in 16% (171/1050) of visits, in 52% (90/174) of women. Cervicovaginal HIV-1 RNA was detectable in 16% (128/798) of visits with undetectable plasma HIV-1 RNA in 45% (77/170) of women. After adjusting for PVL, detectable cervicovaginal HIV-1 RNA was independently associated with abnormal vaginal discharge and use of nevirapine or zidovudine vs. efavirenz and stavudine, respectively; longer time on ART and hormonal contraception were not associated with increased shedding. The presence of bacterial vaginosis, herpes simplex virus-2 DNA, and the use of nevirapine vs efavirenz were independently associated with an increased quantity of cervicovaginal HIV-1 RNA.
Certain ART regimens, abnormal vaginal discharge, bacterial vaginosis, and genital herpes simplex virus-2 are associated with HIV-1 cervicovaginal shedding or quantity in women on ART after adjusting for PVL. This may reduce the effectiveness of ART as prevention in high-risk populations.
PMCID: PMC3979829  PMID: 24226060
antiretrovirals; HIV-1 RNA; cervicovaginal lavage; nevirapine; bacterial vaginosis; herpes simplex virus type-2
2.  Conjunctival Scarring in Trachoma Is Associated with the HLA-C Ligand of KIR and Is Exacerbated by Heterozygosity at KIR2DL2/KIR2DL3 
Chlamydia trachomatis is globally the predominant infectious cause of blindness and one of the most common bacterial causes of sexually transmitted infection. Infections of the conjunctiva cause the blinding disease trachoma, an immuno-pathological disease that is characterised by chronic conjunctival inflammation and fibrosis. The polymorphic Killer-cell Immunoglobulin-like Receptors (KIR) are found on Natural Killer cells and have co-evolved with the Human Leucocyte Antigen (HLA) class I system. Certain genetic constellations of KIR and HLA class I polymorphisms are associated with a number of diseases in which modulation of the innate responses to viral and intracellular bacterial pathogens is central.
A sample of 134 Gambian pedigrees selected to contain at least one individual with conjunctival scarring in the F1 generation was used. Individuals (n = 830) were genotyped for HLA class I and KIR gene families. Family Based Association Tests and Case Pseudo-control tests were used to extend tests for transmission disequilibrium to take full advantage of the family design, genetic model and phenotype.
Principle findings
We found that the odds of trachomatous scarring increased with the number of genome copies of HLA-C2 (C1/C2 OR = 2.29 BHP-value = 0.006; C2/C2 OR = 3.97 BHP-value = 0.0004) and further increased when both KIR2DL2 and KIR2DL3 (C2/C2 OR = 5.95 BHP-value = 0.006) were present.
To explain the observations in the context of chlamydial infection and trachoma we propose a two-stage model of response and disease that balances the cytolytic response of KIR expressing NK cells with the ability to secrete interferon gamma, a combination that may cause pathology. The data presented indicate that HLA-C genotypes are important determinants of conjunctival scarring in trachoma and that KIR2DL2/KIR2DL3 heterozygosity further increases risk of conjunctival scarring in individuals carrying HLA-C2.
Author Summary
Chlamydia trachomatis is a pathogen that causes sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and the blinding disease trachoma. Natural Killer (NK) cells are part of the host immune system's first line of defence against infection. NK cell functions are genetically encoded and differences between individuals mean that some people are better able to respond to infections than others. We found that in certain combinations, specific variants of the gene HLA-C (Human Leucocyte Antigen, C) and of a complex set of genes called the Killer-cell Immunoglobulin-like Receptors (KIR) were associated with a six-fold increase in the relative risk of scarring tissue damage resulting from ocular C. trachomatis infection (trachoma). This combination of genetic variants may reduce the host's ability to effectively resolve infections and result in a harmful immune response that ultimately leads to tissue damage and scarring. KIR+ NK cells are potential cellular mediators of the damaging immune response. Previous studies have identified that the same HLA-KIR genetic constellation that associates with trachoma is actually protective against infectious diseases such as malaria and tuberculosis. The high frequency of the trachoma-associated constellation in African populations may therefore be explained by the evolutionary benefits of protection from the complications of severe disease.
PMCID: PMC3961204  PMID: 24651768
3.  Towards a safe and effective chlamydial vaccine: Lessons from the eye 
Vaccine  2014;32(14):1572-1578.
•Chlamydia trachomatis is the leading infectious cause of blindness.•Vaccine trials against ocular C. trachomatis infection were conducted in the 1960s.•Whole organism vaccines induced short-lived, strain-specific protective immunity.•Many correlates of protective immunity and pathology have been defined.•Important lessons have been learned to inform the development of a chlamydial vaccine.
As well as being the most common bacterial sexually transmitted infection, Chlamydia trachomatis (Ct) is the leading infectious cause of blindness. The pathogenesis of ocular chlamydial infection (trachoma) is similar to that of genital infection. In the 1960s the efficacy of Ct vaccines against ocular infection was evaluated in major field trials in Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, The Gambia, India and Ethiopia. These trials showed that it was possible to induce short term immunity to ocular infection, and to reduce the incidence of inflammatory trachoma, by parenteral immunisation with killed or live whole organism vaccines. In one study, it was also shown that the incidence of scarring sequelae was reduced in vaccinated children. Detailed studies in non-human primates conducted at this time suggested that vaccination could lead to more severe inflammatory disease on subsequent challenge. Since that time there have been many studies on the immunological correlates of protective immunity and immunopathology in ocular Ct infection in humans and non-human primates, and on host genetic polymorphisms associated with protection from adverse sequelae. These have provided important information to guide the development and evaluation of a human Ct vaccine.
PMCID: PMC3991328  PMID: 24606636
Chlamydia; Vaccine; Trachoma; Protective immunity; Immunopathology
4.  A Dual Point-of-Care Test Shows Good Performance in Simultaneously Detecting Nontreponemal and Treponemal Antibodies in Patients With Syphilis: A Multisite Evaluation Study in China 
A multisite evaluation of a dual point-of-care syphilis test with 3 types of specimens (N = 3134) in China indicates good overall sensitivity and specificity: 95%–97% and 99%–100% in detecting treponemal antibodies, and 86%–88% and 94%–96% in detecting nontreponemal antibodies.
Background. Rapid point-of-care (POC) syphilis tests based on simultaneous detection of treponemal and nontreponemal antibodies (dual POC tests) offer the opportunity to increase coverage of syphilis screening and treatment. This study aimed to conduct a multisite performance evaluation of a dual POC syphilis test in China.
Methods. Participants were recruited from patients at sexually transmitted infection clinics and high-risk groups in outreach settings in 6 sites in China. Three kinds of specimens (whole blood [WB], fingerprick blood [FB], and blood plasma [BP]) were used for evaluating sensitivity and specificity of the Dual Path Platform (DPP) Syphilis Screen and Confirm test using its treponemal and nontreponemal lines to compare Treponema pallidum particle agglutination (TPPA) assay and toluidine red unheated serum test (TRUST) as reference standards.
Results. A total of 3134 specimens (WB 1323, FB 488, and BP 1323) from 1323 individuals were collected. The sensitivities as compared with TPPA were 96.7% for WB, 96.4% for FB, and 94.6% for BP, and the specificities were 99.3%, 99.1%, and 99.6%, respectively. The sensitivities as compared with TRUST were 87.2% for WB, 85.8% for FB, and 88.4% for BP, and the specificities were 94.4%, 96.1%, and 95.0%, respectively. For specimens with a TRUST titer of 1:4 or higher, the sensitivities were 100.0% for WB, 97.8% for FB, and 99.6% for BP.
Conclusions. DPP test shows good sensitivity and specificity in detecting treponemal and nontreponemal antibodies in 3 kinds of specimens. It is hoped that this assay can be considered as an alternative in the diagnosis of syphilis, particularly in resource-limited areas.
PMCID: PMC3657488  PMID: 23132172
point-of-care test; syphilis; sensitivity; specificity
5.  An Overview of the Clinical Use of Filter Paper in the Diagnosis of Tropical Diseases 
Tropical infectious diseases diagnosis and surveillance are often hampered by difficulties of sample collection and transportation. Filter paper potentially provides a useful medium to help overcome such problems. We reviewed the literature on the use of filter paper, focusing on the evaluation of nucleic acid and serological assays for diagnosis of infectious diseases using dried blood spots (DBS) compared with recognized gold standards. We reviewed 296 eligible studies and included 101 studies evaluating DBS and 192 studies on other aspects of filter paper use. We also discuss the use of filter paper with other body fluids and for tropical veterinary medicine. In general, DBS perform with sensitivities and specificities similar or only slightly inferior to gold standard sample types. However, important problems were revealed with the uncritical use of DBS, inappropriate statistical analysis, and lack of standardized methodology. DBS have great potential to empower healthcare workers by making laboratory-based diagnostic tests more readily accessible, but additional and more rigorous research is needed.
PMCID: PMC3919219  PMID: 24366501
6.  Integrated care as a means to improve primary care delivery for adults and adolescents in the developing world: a critical analysis of Integrated Management of Adolescent and Adult Illness (IMAI) 
BMC Medicine  2014;12:6.
More than three decades after the 1978 Declaration of Alma-Ata enshrined the goal of ‘health for all’, high-quality primary care services remain undelivered to the great majority of the world’s poor. This failure to effectively reach the most vulnerable populations has been, in part, a failure to develop and implement appropriate and effective primary care delivery models. This paper examines a root cause of these failures, namely that the inability to achieve clear and practical consensus around the scope and aims of primary care may be contributing to ongoing operational inertia. The present work also examines integrated models of care as a strategy to move beyond conceptual dissonance in primary care and toward implementation. Finally, this paper examines the strengths and weaknesses of a particular model, the World Health Organization’s Integrated Management of Adolescent and Adult Illness (IMAI), and its potential as a guidepost toward improving the quality of primary care delivery in poor settings.
Integration and integrated care may be an important approach in establishing a new paradigm of primary care delivery, though overall, current evidence is mixed. However, a number of successful specific examples illustrate the potential for clinical and service integration to positively impact patient care in primary care settings. One example deserving of further examination is the IMAI, developed by the World Health Organization as an operational model that integrates discrete vertical interventions into a comprehensive delivery system encompassing triage and screening, basic acute and chronic disease care, basic prevention and treatment services, and follow-up and referral guidelines. IMAI is an integrated model delivered at a single point-of-care using a standard approach to each patient based on the universal patient history and physical examination. The evidence base on IMAI is currently weak, but whether or not IMAI itself ultimately proves useful in advancing primary care delivery, it is these principles that should serve as the basis for developing a standard of integrated primary care delivery for adults and adolescents that can serve as the foundation for ongoing quality improvement.
As integrated primary care is the standard of care in the developed world, so too must we move toward implementing integrated models of primary care delivery in poorer settings. Models such as IMAI are an important first step in this evolution. A robust and sustained commitment to innovation, research and quality improvement will be required if integrated primary care delivery is to become a reality in developing world.
PMCID: PMC3895758  PMID: 24423387
Primary care; Integrated management; Integration; Quality improvement; Health care delivery; Health systems; IMAI
7.  Plasmid Copy Number and Disease Severity in Naturally Occurring Ocular Chlamydia trachomatis Infection 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2014;52(1):324-327.
The Chlamydia trachomatis plasmid is a virulence factor. Plasmid copy number, C. trachomatis load and disease severity were assessed in a treatment-naive population where trachoma is hyperendemic. By using droplet digital PCR, plasmid copy number was found to be stable (median, 5.34 [range, 1 to 18]) and there were no associations with C. trachomatis load or disease severity.
PMCID: PMC3911420  PMID: 24197878
9.  The implementation of an external quality assurance method for point- of- care tests for HIV and syphilis in Tanzania 
BMC Infectious Diseases  2013;13:530.
External quality assurance (EQA) programmes, which are routinely used in laboratories, have not been widely implemented for point-of- care tests (POCTs). A study was performed in ten health centres in Tanzania, to implement the use of dried blood spots (DBS) as an EQA method for HIV and syphilis (POCTs).
DBS samples were collected for retesting at a reference laboratory and the results compared to the POCT results obtained at the clinic. In total, 2341 DBS samples were collected from 10 rural health facilities over a period of nine months, of which 92.5% were correctly collected and spotted.
The EQA method was easily implemented by healthcare workers under routine conditions in Northern Tanzania. For HIV, 967 out of 972 samples (99.5%) were concordant between DBS and POCT results. For syphilis, the sensitivity of syphilis tests varied between clinics with a median of 96% (25th and 75th quartile; 95-98%). The specificity of syphilis POCT was consistent compared to laboratory based test using DBS, with a median of 96% (25th and 75th quartiles; 95-98%).
Overall, the quality of testing varied at clinics and EQA results can be used to identify clinics where healthcare workers require remedial training, suggesting the necessity for stringent quality assurance programmes for POC testing. As Tanzania embarks on scaling up HIV and syphilis testing, DBS can be a useful and robust tool to monitor the quality of testing performed by healthcare workers and trigger corrective action to ensure accuracy of test results.
PMCID: PMC3830510  PMID: 24206624
11.  The Trade-Off between Accuracy and Accessibility of Syphilis Screening Assays 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(9):e75327.
The availability of rapid and sensitive methods to diagnose syphilis facilitates screening of pregnant women, which is one of the most cost-effective health interventions available. We have evaluated two screening methods in Tanzania: an enzyme immunoassay (EIA), and a point-of-care test (POCT). We evaluated the performance of each test against the Treponema pallidum particle agglutination assay (TPPA) as the reference method, and the accessibility of testing in a rural district of Tanzania. The POCT was performed in the clinic on whole blood, while the other assays were performed on plasma in the laboratory. Samples were also tested by the rapid plasma Reagin (RPR) test. With TPPA as reference assay, the sensitivity and specificity of EIA were 95.3% and 97.8%, and of the POCT were 59.6% and 99.4% respectively. The sensitivity of the POCT and EIA for active syphilis cases (TPPA positive and RPR titer ≥1/8) were 82% and 100% respectively. Only 15% of antenatal clinic attenders in this district visited a health facility with a laboratory capable of performing the EIA. Although it is less sensitive than EIA, its greater accessibility, and the fact that treatment can be given on the same day, means that the use of POCT would result in a higher proportion of women with syphilis receiving treatment than with the EIA in this district of Tanzania.
PMCID: PMC3774815  PMID: 24066175
12.  A Randomized Trial of Two Coverage Targets for Mass Treatment with Azithromycin for Trachoma 
The World Health Organization recommends at least 3 annual antibiotic mass drug administrations (MDA) where the prevalence of trachoma is >10% in children ages 1–9 years, with coverage at least at 80%. However, the additional value of higher coverage targeted at children with multiple rounds is unknown.
Trial Design
2×2 factorial community randomized, double blind, trial.
Trial methods
32 communities with prevalence of trachoma ≥20% were randomized to: annual MDA aiming for coverage of children between 80%–90% (usual target) versus aiming for coverage>90% (enhanced target); and to: MDA for three years versus a rule of cessation of MDA early if the estimated prevalence of ocular C. trachomatis infection was less than 5%. The primary outcome was the community prevalence of infection with C. trachomatis at 36 months.
Over the trial's course, no community met the MDA cessation rule, so all communities had the full 3 rounds of MDA. At 36 months, there was no significant difference in the prevalence of infection, 4.0 versus 5.4 (mean adjusted difference = 1.4%, 95% CI = −1.0% to 3.8%), nor in the prevalence of trachoma, 6.1 versus 9.0 (mean adjusted difference = 2.6%, 95% CI = −0.3% to 5.3%) comparing the usual target to the enhanced target group. There was no difference if analyzed using coverage as a continuous variable.
In communities that had pre-treatment prevalence of follicular trachoma of 20% or greater, there is no evidence that MDA can be stopped before 3 annual rounds, even with high coverage. Increasing coverage in children above 90% does not appear to confer additional benefit.
Author Summary
The World Health Organization recommends at least 3 annual antibiotic mass drug administrations (MDA) where the prevalence of trachoma is >10% in children ages 1–9 years, with coverage at least at 80%. However, the additional value of higher coverage targeted at children with multiple rounds is unknown. We randomized 32 communities in Kongwa, Tanzania, with starting prevalence estimated at >20% to four arms: annual MDA aiming for coverage of children between 80%–90% (usual target) versus aiming for coverage>90% (enhanced target); and to: MDA for three years versus a rule of cessation of MDA early if the estimated prevalence of ocular C. trachomatis infection was less than 5%. After three rounds of MDA, infection with C. trachomatis and trachoma had declined significantly from baseline but no communities had treatment stopped. There was no difference in infection or in trachoma at three years comparing the usual coverage communities to the enhanced coverage communities. We conclude that in communities that had pre-treatment prevalence of follicular trachoma of 20% or greater, there is no evidence that MDA can be stopped before 3 annual rounds, even with high coverage. Increasing coverage in children above 90% does not appear to confer additional benefit.
PMCID: PMC3757067  PMID: 24009792
13.  The Geographical Distribution and Burden of Trachoma in Africa 
There remains a lack of epidemiological data on the geographical distribution of trachoma to support global mapping and scale up of interventions for the elimination of trachoma. The Global Atlas of Trachoma (GAT) was launched in 2011 to address these needs and provide standardised, updated and accessible maps. This paper uses data included in the GAT to describe the geographical distribution and burden of trachoma in Africa.
Data assembly used structured searches of published and unpublished literature to identify cross-sectional epidemiological data on the burden of trachoma since 1980. Survey data were abstracted into a standardised database and mapped using geographical information systems (GIS) software. The characteristics of all surveys were summarized by country according to data source, time period, and survey methodology. Estimates of the current population at risk were calculated for each country and stratified by endemicity class.
At the time of writing, 1342 records are included in the database representing surveys conducted between 1985 and 2012. These data were provided by direct contact with national control programmes and academic researchers (67%), peer-reviewed publications (17%) and unpublished reports or theses (16%). Prevalence data on active trachoma are available in 29 of the 33 countries in Africa classified as endemic for trachoma, and 1095 (20.6%) districts have representative data collected through population-based prevalence surveys. The highest prevalence of active trachoma and trichiasis remains in the Sahel area of West Africa and Savannah areas of East and Central Africa and an estimated 129.4 million people live in areas of Africa confirmed to be trachoma endemic.
The Global Atlas of Trachoma provides the most contemporary and comprehensive summary of the burden of trachoma within Africa. The GAT highlights where future mapping is required and provides an important planning tool for scale-up and surveillance of trachoma control.
Author Summary
In order to target resources and drugs to reach trachoma elimination targets by the year 2020, data on the burden of disease are required. Using prevalence data in African countries derived from the Global Atlas of Trachoma (GAT), the distribution of trachoma continues to be focused in East and West Sub-Saharan Africa, North Africa and a few endemic countries in Central Sub-Saharan Africa. Currently, 129.4 million people are estimated to live in areas that are confirmed to be trachoma endemic and 98 million are known to require access to the SAFE strategy. The maps and information presented in this work highlight the GAT as important open-access planning and advocacy tool for efforts to finalize trachoma mapping and assist national programmes in planning interventions.
PMCID: PMC3738464  PMID: 23951378
14.  Association between Ocular Bacterial Carriage and Follicular Trachoma Following Mass Azithromycin Distribution in The Gambia 
Trachoma, caused by ocular Chlamydia trachomatis infection, is the leading infectious cause of blindess, but its prevalence is now falling in many countries. As the prevalence falls, an increasing proportion of individuals with clinical signs of follicular trachoma (TF) is not infected with C. trachomatis. A recent study in Tanzania suggested that other bacteria may play a role in the persistence of these clinical signs.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We examined associations between clinical signs of TF and ocular colonization with four pathogens commonly found in the nasopharnyx, three years after the initiation of mass azithromycin distribution. Children aged 0 to 5 years were randomly selected from 16 Gambian communitites. Both eyes of each child were examined and graded for trachoma according to the World Health Organization (WHO) simplified system. Two swabs were taken from the right eye: one swab was processed for polymerase chain reaction (PCR) using the Amplicor test for detection of C. trachomatis DNA and the second swab was processed by routine bacteriology to assay for the presence of viable Streptococcus pneumoniae, Haemophilus influenzae, Staphylococcus aureus and Moraxella catarrhalis. Prevalence of TF was 6.2% (96/1538) while prevalence of ocular C. trachomatis infection was 1.0% (16/1538). After adjustment, increased odds of TF were observed in the presence of C. trachomatis (OR = 10.4, 95%CI 1.32–81.2, p = 0.03), S. pneumoniae (OR = 2.14, 95%CI 1.03–4.44, p = 0.04) and H. influenzae (OR = 4.72, 95% CI 1.53–14.5, p = 0.01).
Clinical signs of TF can persist in communities even when ocular C. trachomatis infection has been controlled through mass azithromycin distribution. In these settings, TF may be associated with ocular colonization with bacteria commonly carried in the nasopharnyx. This may affect the interpretation of impact surveys and the determinations of thresholds for discontinuing mass drug administration.
Author Summary
Trachoma, the world's leading infectious cause of blindness, is caused by ocular infection with the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis. In low-prevalence settings and following mass treatment campaigns, clinically active follicular trachoma (TF) can be found in the absence of C. trachomatis infection. We carried out this study to investigate associations between ocular carriage of non-chlamydial pathogens and a clinical diagnosis of TF following a mass treatment campaign in The Gambia. We found that children who carried Streptococcus pneumoniae or Haemophilus influenza in their eyes were more likely to have been diagnosed with TF than children who did not carry these pathogens. In The Gambia, non-chlamydial pathogens may be inducing or exacerbating TF in the absence of C. trachomatis infection.
PMCID: PMC3723595  PMID: 23936573
15.  Development and Evaluation of a Next-Generation Digital PCR Diagnostic Assay for Ocular Chlamydia trachomatis Infections 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2013;51(7):2195-2203.
Droplet digital PCR (ddPCR) is an emulsion PCR process that performs absolute quantitation of nucleic acids. We developed a ddPCR assay for Chlamydia trachomatis infections and found it to be accurate and precise. Using PCR mixtures containing plasmids engineered to include the PCR target sequences, we were able to quantify with a dynamic range between 0.07 and 3,160 targets/μl (r2 = 0.9927) with >95% confidence. Using 1,509 clinical conjunctival swab samples from a population in which trachoma is endemic in Guinea Bissau, we evaluated the specificity and sensitivity of the quantitative ddPCR assay in diagnosing ocular C. trachomatis infections by comparing the performances of ddPCR and the Roche Amplicor CT/NG test. We defined ddPCR tests as positive when we had ≥95% confidence in a nonzero estimate of target load. The sensitivity of ddPCR against Amplicor was 73.3% (95% confidence interval [CI], 67.9 to 78.7%), and specificity was 99.1% (95% CI, 98.6 to 99.6%). Negative and positive predictive values were 94.6% (95% CI, 93.4 to 95.8%) and 94.5% (95% CI, 91.3 to 97.7%), respectively. Based on Amplicor CT/NG testing, the estimated population prevalence of C. trachomatis ocular infection was ∼17.5%. Receiver-operator curve analysis was used to select critical cutoff values for use in clinical settings in which a balance between higher sensitivity and specificity is required. We concluded that ddPCR is an effective diagnostic technology suitable for both research and clinical use in diagnosing ocular C. trachomatis infections.
PMCID: PMC3697714  PMID: 23637300
16.  Rapid Syphilis Tests as Catalysts for Health Systems Strengthening: A Case Study from Peru 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(6):e66905.
Untreated maternal syphilis leads to adverse pregnancy outcomes. The use of point of care tests (POCT) offers an opportunity to improve screening coverage for syphilis and other aspects of health systems. Our objective is to present the experience of the introduction of POCT for syphilis in Peru and describe how new technology can catalyze health system strengthening.
The study was implemented from September 2009–November 2010 to assess the feasibility of the use of a POCT for syphilis for screening pregnant women in Lima, Peru. Outcomes measured included access to syphilis screening, treatment coverage, partner treatment, effect on patient flow and service efficiency, acceptability among providers and patients, and sustainability.
Before the introduction of POCT, a pregnant woman needed 6 visits to the health center in 27 days before she received her syphilis result. We trained 604 health providers and implemented the POCT for syphilis as the “two for one strategy”, offering with one finger stick both syphilis and HIV testing. Implementation of the POCT resulted in testing and treatment on the first visit. Screening and treatment coverages for syphilis improved significantly compared with the previous year. Implementation of POCT has been scaled up nationally since the study ended, and coverages for screening, treatment and partner treatment have remained over 92%.
Implementation of POCT for syphilis proved feasible and acceptable, and led to improvement in several aspects of health services. For the process to be effective we highlight the importance of: (1) engaging the authorities; (2) dissipating tensions between providers and identifying champions; (3) training according to the needs; (4) providing monitoring, supervision, support and recognition; (5) sharing results and discussing actions together; (6) consulting and obtaining feedback from users; and (7) integrating with other services such as with rapid HIV testing.
PMCID: PMC3694115  PMID: 23840552
18.  Mass Treatment with Azithromycin for Trachoma: When Is One Round Enough? Results from the PRET Trial in The Gambia 
The World Health Organization has recommended three rounds of mass drug administration (MDA) with antibiotics in districts where the prevalence of follicular trachoma (TF) is ≥10% in children aged 1–9 years, with treatment coverage of at least 80%. For districts at 5–10% TF prevalence it was recommended that TF be assessed in 1–9 year olds in each community within the district, with three rounds of MDA provided to any community where TF≥10%. Worldwide, over 40 million people live in districts whose TF prevalence is estimated to be between 5 and 10%. The best way to treat these districts, and the optimum role of testing for infection in deciding whether to initiate or discontinue MDA, are unknown.
In a community randomized trial with a factorial design, we randomly assigned 48 communities in four Gambian districts, in which the prevalence of trachoma was known or suspected to be above 10%, to receive annual mass treatment with expected coverage of 80–89% (“Standard”), or to receive an additional visit in an attempt to achieve coverage of 90% or more (“Enhanced”). The same 48 communities were randomised to receive mass treatment annually for three years (“3×”), or to have treatment discontinued if Chlamydia trachomatis (Ct) infection was not detected in a sample of children in the community after mass treatment (stopping rule(“SR”)). Primary outcomes were the prevalence of TF and of Ct infection in 0–5 year olds at 36 months.
The baseline prevalence of TF and of Ct infection in the target communities was 6.5% and 0.8% respectively. At 36 months the prevalence of TF was 2.8%, and that of Ct infection was 0.5%. No differences were found between the arms in TF or Ct infection prevalence either at baseline (Standard-3×: TF 5.6%, Ct 0.7%; Standard-SR: TF 6.1%, Ct 0.2%; Enhanced-3×: TF 7.4%, Ct 0.9%; and Enhanced-SR: TF 6.2%, Ct 1.2%); or at 36 months (Standard-3×: TF 2.3%, Ct 1.0%; Standard-SR TF 2.5%, Ct 0.2%; Enhanced-3× TF 3.0%, Ct 0.2%; and Enhanced-SR TF 3.2%, Ct 0.7% ). The implementation of the stopping rule led to treatment stopping after one round of MDA in all communities in both SR arms. Mean treatment coverage of children aged 0–9 in communities randomised to standard treatment was 87.7% at baseline and 84.8% and 88.8% at one and two years, respectively. Mean coverage of children in communities randomized to enhanced treatment was 90.0% at baseline and 94.2% and 93.8% at one and two years, respectively. There was no evidence of any difference in TF or Ct prevalence at 36 months resulting from enhanced coverage or from one round of MDA compared to three.
The Gambia is close to the elimination target for active trachoma. In districts prioritised for three MDA rounds, one round of MDA reduced active trachoma to low levels and Ct infection was not detectable in any community. There was no additional benefit to giving two further rounds of MDA. Programmes could save scarce resources by determining when to initiate or to discontinue MDA based on testing for Ct infection, and one round of MDA may be all that is necessary in some settings to reduce TF below the elimination threshold.
Author Summary
Trachoma, which results from infection with a bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis(Ct), is a leading cause of preventable blindness in the world. One of the currently used control methods is mass drug administration (MDA) with azithromycin, which is initiated according to rates of follicular trachoma(TF) in children. This study was a clinical trial done to determine whether testing communities for Ct infection will prevent unnecessary rounds of MDA. This was done by allowing communities to stop treatment if their infection had been reduced below a threshold. The study compared the effects of one round of mass treatment to three and found that there was no difference in either follicular trachoma or infection rates after three years. One round of treatment reduced TF to a low level. Tests for infection could be used to decide when to start or discontinue MDA and to prevent unnecessary treatment rounds in settings like The Gambia.
PMCID: PMC3681669  PMID: 23785525
19.  Outreach Syphilis Testing Services by Different Health Providers to Female Sex Workers in Southern China 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(4):e60626.
Health providers have played important roles on delivering prevention and care services to control syphilis in China. The current study was aimed to evaluate the performance of different health providers in providing outreach syphilis testing services to female sex workers (FSWs). The current study carried out during April to August 2009 in Liuzhou was aimed to investigate the services delivered by two different types of clinics in China. A total of 1,808 FSWs recruited from sex work venues were included in the study. Prevalence of positive syphilis test (6.4%) among FSWs accessed by the local center for disease control outreach teams (CDC teams) was significantly lower than that (9.3%) among FSWs accessed by the local reproductive health hospital outreach teams (RHH teams). As compared with CDC teams, RHH teams had more FSWs to be successfully referred to the designated STD clinics for further syphilis confirmation and intervention (85.7% vs. 26.7%, P<0.001). These findings indicate that RHH teams may be more efficient than CDC teams to provide outreach-based services to FSWs. Participation of the reproductive health providers or other medical facilities in outreach services to FSWs should be considered in developing intervention programs in China.
PMCID: PMC3634040  PMID: 23637755
20.  Using a Nonparametric Multilevel Latent Markov Model to Evaluate Diagnostics for Trachoma 
American Journal of Epidemiology  2013;177(9):913-922.
In disease control or elimination programs, diagnostics are essential for assessing the impact of interventions, refining treatment strategies, and minimizing the waste of scarce resources. Although high-performance tests are desirable, increased accuracy is frequently accompanied by a requirement for more elaborate infrastructure, which is often not feasible in the developing world. These challenges are pertinent to mapping, impact monitoring, and surveillance in trachoma elimination programs. To help inform rational design of diagnostics for trachoma elimination, we outline a nonparametric multilevel latent Markov modeling approach and apply it to 2 longitudinal cohort studies of trachoma-endemic communities in Tanzania (2000–2002) and The Gambia (2001–2002) to provide simultaneous inferences about the true population prevalence of Chlamydia trachomatis infection and disease and the sensitivity, specificity, and predictive values of 3 diagnostic tests for C. trachomatis infection. Estimates were obtained by using data collected before and after mass azithromycin administration. Such estimates are particularly important for trachoma because of the absence of a true “gold standard” diagnostic test for C. trachomatis. Estimated transition probabilities provide useful insights into key epidemiologic questions about the persistence of disease and the clearance of infection as well as the required frequency of surveillance in the postelimination setting.
PMCID: PMC3639724  PMID: 23548755
diagnosis; latent Markov model; multilevel; nonparametric model; trachoma
21.  Conjunctival MicroRNA Expression in Inflammatory Trachomatous Scarring 
Trachoma is a fibrotic disease of the conjunctiva initiated by Chlamydia trachomatis infection. This blinding disease affects over 40 million people worldwide yet the mechanisms underlying its pathogenesis remain poorly understood. We have investigated host microRNA (miR) expression in health (N) and disease (conjunctival scarring with (TSI) and without (TS) inflammation) to determine if these epigenetic differences are associated with pathology.
We collected two independent samples of human conjunctival swab specimens from individuals living in The Gambia (n = 63 & 194). miR was extracted, and we investigated the expression of 754 miR in the first sample of 63 specimens (23 N, 17 TS, 23 TSI) using Taqman qPCR array human miRNA genecards. Network and pathway analysis was performed on this dataset. Seven miR that were significantly differentially expressed between different phenotypic groups were then selected for validation by qPCR in the second sample of 194 specimens (93 N, 74 TS, 22 TSI).
Array screening revealed differential expression of 82 miR between N, TS and TSI phenotypes (fold change >3, p<0.05). Predicted mRNA targets of these miR were enriched in pathways involved in fibrosis and epithelial cell differentiation. Two miR were confirmed as being differentially expressed upon validation by qPCR. miR-147b is significantly up-regulated in TSI versus N (fold change = 2.3, p = 0.03) and miR-1285 is up-regulated in TSI versus TS (fold change = 4.6, p = 0.005), which was consistent with the results of the qPCR array.
miR-147b and miR-1285 are up-regulated in inflammatory trachomatous scarring. Further investigation of the function of these miR will aid our understanding of the pathogenesis of trachoma.
Author Summary
Trachoma is a debilitating disease that affects 40 million people worldwide. It can cause progressive fibrosis of the upper eyelid and blindness, yet the mechanism is poorly understood. We have investigated the expression of short sequences of genetic material (microRNA) that regulate gene expression. We screened for the expression of 754 microRNA sequences (miR) in genetic material isolated from conjunctival swab samples from individuals in trachoma-endemic communities in The Gambia. This sample included healthy controls, individuals with trachomatous scarring and individuals with trachomatous scarring in the presence of clinically significant inflammation. We found 82 miR that were differentially expressed. Computer simulations predict that these miR regulate genes in epithelial cell differentiation, inflammation and fibrosis pathways, all of which are involved in the scarring process. We then validated the expression of seven of these differentially expressed miR in a second larger biological sample set from The Gambia. We confirmed that miR-147b and miR-1285 have increased expression in individuals with trachomatous scarring in the presence of clinically significant inflammation. Further investigation into the functions of these miR will aid our understanding of this disease and present opportunities to develop treatments for ocular fibrotic diseases.
PMCID: PMC3597489  PMID: 23516655
22.  Effect of Genital Herpes on Cervicovaginal HIV Shedding in Women Co-Infected with HIV AND HSV-2 in Tanzania 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(3):e59037.
To compare the presence and quantity of cervicovaginal HIV among HIV seropositive women with clinical herpes, subclinical HSV-2 infection and without HSV-2 infection respectively; to evaluate the association between cervicovaginal HIV and HSV shedding; and identify factors associated with quantity of cervicovaginal HIV.
Four groups of HIV seropositive adult female barworkers were identified and examined at three-monthly intervals between October 2000 and March 2003 in Mbeya, Tanzania: (1) 57 women at 70 clinic visits with clinical genital herpes; (2) 39 of the same women at 46 clinic visits when asymptomatic; (3) 55 HSV-2 seropositive women at 60 clinic visits who were never observed with herpetic lesions; (4) 18 HSV-2 seronegative women at 45 clinic visits. Associations of genital HIV shedding with HIV plasma viral load (PVL), herpetic lesions, HSV shedding and other factors were examined.
Prevalence of detectable genital HIV RNA varied from 73% in HSV-2 seronegative women to 94% in women with herpetic lesions (geometric means 1634 vs 3339 copies/ml, p = 0.03). In paired specimens from HSV-2 positive women, genital HIV viral shedding was similar during symptomatic and asymptomatic visits. On multivariate regression, genital HIV RNA (log10 copies/mL) was closely associated with HIV PVL (β = 0.51 per log10 copies/ml increase, 95%CI:0.41–0.60, p<0.001) and HSV shedding (β = 0.24 per log10 copies/ml increase, 95% CI:0.16–0.32, p<0.001) but not the presence of herpetic lesions (β = −0.10, 95%CI:−0.28–0.08, p = 0.27).
HIV PVL and HSV shedding were more important determinants of genital HIV than the presence of herpetic lesions. These data support a role of HSV-2 infection in enhancing HIV transmissibility.
PMCID: PMC3596319  PMID: 23516595
23.  The development and validation of dried blood spots for external quality assurance of syphilis serology 
BMC Infectious Diseases  2013;13:102.
Syphilis causes up to 1,500,000 congenital syphilis cases annually. These could be prevented if all pregnant women were screened, and those with syphilis treated with a single dose of penicillin before 28 weeks gestation. In recent years, rapid point-of-care tests have allowed greater access to syphilis screening, especially in rural or remote areas, but the lack of quality assurance of rapid testing has been a concern. We determined the feasibility of using dried blood spots (DBS) as specimens for quality assurance of syphilis serological assays.
We developed DBS extraction protocols for use with Treponema pallidum particle agglutination assay (TPPA), Treponema pallidum haemagglutination assay (TPHA) and an enzyme immunoassay (EIA) and compared the results with those using matching plasma samples from the same patient.
Since DBS samples showed poor performance with TPHA and EIA (TPHA sensitivity was 50.5% (95% confidence interval: 39.9–61.2%) and EIA specificity was 50.4% (95% CI: 43.7–57.1%), only the DBS TPPA was used in the final evaluation. DBS TPPA showed an sensitivity of 95.5% (95% CI: 91.3–98.0%) and a specificity of 99.0% (95% CI: 98.1–99.5%) compared to TPPA using plasma samples as a reference.
DBS samples can be recommended for use with TPPA, and may be of value for external quality assurance of point-of-care syphilis testing.
PMCID: PMC3586363  PMID: 23442198
Dried blood spots; Syphilis; Treponema pallidum; DBS; Sensitivity; Evaluation
24.  The Impact of Syphilis Screening among Female Sex Workers in China: A Modelling Study 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(1):e55622.
In China, female sex workers (FSWs) are at high risk of syphilis infection, but are hard to reach for interventions. Point-of-care testing introduces opportunities for expanding syphilis control measures. Modelling is used to estimate the impact of using rapid tests to screen FSWs for syphilis. In other settings, modelling has predicted large rebounds in infectious syphilis following screening, which may undermine any impact achieved.
A deterministic syphilis transmission model among FSWs and clients was fitted to data from Yunnan Province (FSW syphilis prevalence = 7.5%), and used to estimate the impact of rapid syphilis testing and treatment for FSWs. Impact projections were compared for different model structures that included risk heterogeneity amongst FSWs, incoming syphilis infections amongst new FSWs and clients and re-infection from FSWs' regular non-commercial partners. The rebound in syphilis prevalence after screening ceased was explored.
All model structures suggest yearly syphilis screening could substantially reduce (by 72–88%) syphilis prevalence amongst FSWs in this setting over five years. However, incoming syphilis infections amongst new FSWs and clients or re-infections from regular non-commercial partners of FSWs can considerably reduce (>30%) the proportion of infections averted. Including heterogeneity in risk amongst FSWs had little effect upon the proportion of infections averted. In this setting, the rebound in syphilis prevalence after screening ceased is predicted to be slight, but it could be large in high prevalence settings.
Rapid test screening could dramatically reduce syphilis prevalence amongst hard-to-reach groups, but strategies to reduce re-infection from regular non-commercial partners are needed to maximise impact.
PMCID: PMC3559538  PMID: 23383249
25.  A Cluster-Randomized Controlled Trial Evaluating the Effects of Mass Azithromycin Treatment on Growth and Nutrition in Niger 
Antimicrobials are used primarily to treat infectious disease, but they have other effects. Here, we assess anthropometry measurements in children 6–60 months in 24 communities randomized to one or two mass azithromycin distributions over a 1-year period in Niger. We compared the prevalence of wasting, low mid-upper arm circumference, stunting, and underweight in communities in the two treatment arms. We were unable to prove that there was a difference in the prevalence of wasting in the 12 communities that received one mass azithromycin distribution versus the 12 communities that received two mass azithromycin distributions (odds ratio = 0.75, 95% confidence interval = 0.46–1.23). Likewise, we were unable to detect a difference in the two treatment arms for low mid-upper arm circumference, stunting, and underweight. There may not be an association between antibiotic use and improved growth in humans, or this trial was not powerful enough to detect an association if it exists.
PMCID: PMC3541724  PMID: 23208876

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