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author:("mabel, David")
1.  A Cross-Sectional Study of ‘Yaws’ in Districts of Ghana Which Have Previously Undertaken Azithromycin Mass Drug Administration for Trachoma Control 
PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases  2015;9(1):e0003496.
Yaws, caused by Treponema pallidum ssp. pertenue, is reportedly endemic in Ghana. Mass distribution of azithromycin is now the cornerstone of the WHO yaws eradication campaign. Mass distribution of azithromycin at a lower target dose was previously undertaken in two regions of Ghana for the control of trachoma. Ongoing reporting of yaws raises the possibility that resistance may have emerged in T. pallidum pertenue, or that alternative infections may be responsible for some of the reported cases. We conducted a cross-sectional survey in thirty communities in two districts of Ghana where MDA for trachoma had previously been conducted. Children aged 5–17 years with ulcerative lesions compatible with yaws were enrolled. Samples for treponemal serology and lesion PCR were collected from all children. 90 children with 98 lesions were enrolled. Syphilis serology was negative in all of them. PCR for T. pallidum ssp pertenue was negative in all children, but Haemophilus ducreyi DNA was detected in 9 lesions. In these communities, previously treated for trachoma, we found no evidence of ongoing transmission of yaws. H. ducreyi was associated with a proportion of skin lesions, but the majority of lesions remain unexplained. Integration of diagnostic testing into both pre and post-MDA surveillance systems is required to better inform yaws control programmes.
Author Summary
Yaws is a chronic bacterial infection of the skin and bones that is endemic in Ghana. Since 2012, mass distribution of the antibiotic azithromycin has become the cornerstone of the WHO yaws eradication campaign. Accurate surveillance data are necessary to guide decisions about where MDA is required. Many national surveillance systems report only clinical cases without laboratory confirmation, which may lead to misdiagnosis. Mass distribution of azithromycin, at a lower dose than is used for yaws, is also used in the control of the eye disease trachoma. Between 2001 and 2008, two regions of Ghana undertook distribution of azithromycin to eliminate trachoma. These regions still report cases of yaws, and it is unclear if these are due to drug resistant yaws or other causes. We conducted a survey of patients with skin ulcers that looked like yaws in one of these regions of Ghana. Blood tests for yaws were negative in all the individuals examined and molecular testing of the ulcers did not show evidence of yaws caused by drug resistant Treponema pallidum ssp. pertenue. Our data suggest that previous treatment for trachoma may have also treated yaws in these districts. These findings highlight the need for yaws control programmes to integrate diagnostic testing into surveillance.
PMCID: PMC4310597  PMID: 25632942
2.  Anthropometric indices of Gambian children after one or three annual rounds of mass drug administration with azithromycin for trachoma control 
BMC Public Health  2014;14(1):1176.
Mass drug administration (MDA) with azithromycin, carried out for the control of blinding trachoma, has been linked to reduced mortality in children. While the mechanism behind this reduction is unclear, it may be due, in part, to improved nutritional status via a potential reduction in the community burden of infectious disease. To determine whether MDA with azithromycin improves anthropometric indices at the community level, we measured the heights and weights of children aged 1 to 4 years in communities where one (single MDA arm) or three annual rounds (annual MDA arm) of azithromycin had been distributed.
Data collection took place three years after treatment in the single MDA arm and one year after the final round of treatment in the annual MDA arm. Mean height-for-age, weight-for-age and weight-for-height z scores were compared between treatment arms.
No significant differences in mean height-for-age, weight-for-age or weight-for-height z scores were found between the annual MDA and single MDA arms, nor was there a significant reduction in prevalence of stunting, wasting or underweight between arms.
Our data do not provide evidence that community MDA with azithromycin improved anthropometric outcomes of children in The Gambia. This may suggest reductions in mortality associated with azithromycin MDA are due to a mechanism other than improved nutritional status.
PMCID: PMC4251859  PMID: 25407464
Mass drug administration; Azithromycin; Trachoma control; Anthropometry
3.  The conjunctival microbiome in health and trachomatous disease: a case control study 
Genome Medicine  2014;6(11):99.
Trachoma, caused by Chlamydia trachomatis, remains the world’s leading infectious cause of blindness. Repeated ocular infection during childhood leads to scarring of the conjunctiva, in-turning of the eyelashes (trichiasis) and corneal opacity in later life. There is a growing body of evidence to suggest non-chlamydial bacteria are associated with clinical signs of trachoma, independent of C. trachomatis infection.
We used deep sequencing of the V1-V3 region of the bacterial 16S rRNA gene to characterize the microbiome of the conjunctiva of 220 residents of The Gambia, 105 with healthy conjunctivae and 115 with clinical signs of trachoma in the absence of detectable C. trachomatis infection. Deep sequencing was carried out using the Roche-454 platform. Sequence data were processed and analyzed through a pipeline developed by the Human Microbiome Project.
The microbiome of healthy participants was influenced by age and season of sample collection with increased richness and diversity seen in younger participants and in samples collected during the dry season. Decreased diversity and an increased abundance of Corynebacterium and Streptococcus were seen in participants with conjunctival scarring compared to normal controls. Abundance of Corynebacterium was higher still in adults with scarring and trichiasis compared to adults with scarring only.
Our results indicate that changes in the conjunctival microbiome occur in trachomatous disease; whether these are a cause or a consequence is yet unknown.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13073-014-0099-x) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4256740  PMID: 25484919
4.  Dried Blood Spots for qPCR Diagnosis of Acute Bartonella bacilliformis Infection 
Bartonella bacilliformis is the etiological agent of a life-threatening illness. Thin blood smear is the most common diagnostic method for acute infection in endemic areas of Peru but remains of limited value because of low sensitivity. The aim of this study was to adapt a B. bacilliformis-specific real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assay for use with dried blood spots (DBS) as a sampling method and assess its performance and use for the diagnosis and surveillance of acute Bartonella infection. Only two of 65 children (3%) that participated in this study had positive blood smears for B. bacilliformis, whereas 16 (including these two) were positive by PCR performed on DBS samples (24.6%). The use of DBS in combination with B. bacilliformis-specific PCR could be a useful tool for public health in identifying and monitoring outbreaks of infection and designing control programs to reduce the burden of this life-threatening illness.
PMCID: PMC3820349  PMID: 24043691
5.  Haemophilus ducreyi Associated with Skin Ulcers among Children, Solomon Islands 
Emerging Infectious Diseases  2014;20(10):1705-1707.
During a survey of yaws prevalence in the Solomon Islands, we collected samples from skin ulcers of 41 children. Using PCR, we identified Haemophilus ducreyi infection in 13 (32%) children. PCR-positive and PCR-negative ulcers were phenotypically indistinguishable. Emergence of H. ducreyi as a cause of nongenital ulcers may affect the World Health Organization’s yaws eradication program.
PMCID: PMC4193279  PMID: 25271477
Haemophilus ducreyi; chancre; chancroid; yaws; ulcer; Buruli ulcer; skin; lesion; cutaneous; nongenital; bacterial; ulcerative; pediatric; children; Solomon Islands
6.  Evaluation of a Rapid Diagnostic Test for Yaws Infection in a Community Surveillance Setting 
Yaws is a non-venereal treponemal infection caused by Treponema pallidum ssp. pertenue. The WHO has launched a worldwide control programme, which aims to eradicate yaws by 2020. The development of a rapid diagnostic test (RDT) for serological diagnosis in the isolated communities affected by yaws is a key requirement for the successful implementation of the WHO strategy. We conducted a study to evaluate the utility of the DPP test in screening for yaws, utilizing samples collected as part of a community prevalence survey conducted in the Solomon Islands. 415 serum samples were tested using both traditional syphilis serology (TPPA and quantitative RPR) and the Chembio DPP Syphilis Screen and Confirm RDT. We calculated the sensitivity and specificity of the RDT as compared to gold standard serology. The sensitivity of the RDT against TPPA was 58.5% and the specificity was 97.6%. The sensitivity of the RDT against RPR was 41.7% and the specificity was 95.2%. The sensitivity of the DPP was strongly related to the RPR titre with a sensitivity of 92.0% for an RPR titre of >1/16. Wider access to DPP testing would improve our understanding of worldwide yaws case reporting and the test may play a key role in assessing patients presenting with yaws like lesions in a post-mass drug administration (MDA) setting.
Author Summary
Yaws is a bacterial infection closely related to syphilis. The WHO has launched a worldwide campaign to eradicate yaws by 2020. If this goal is to be achieved, programme managers and clinical staff will need access to a rapid diagnostic test (RDT) for yaws that can be used in the remote communities where the disease is found. In this study, we present data evaluating one possible RDT for yaws as part of a community survey in the Solomon Islands. The test performed reasonably well—there were some false negatives but few false positives. The performance of the test was best in individuals with more active disease suggesting the test may be most appropriately used for confirming clinically diagnosed cases. These findings should prompt consideration of the use of this RDT as part of worldwide yaws control efforts.
PMCID: PMC4161315  PMID: 25211018
7.  Non-Participation during Azithromycin Mass Treatment for Trachoma in The Gambia: Heterogeneity and Risk Factors 
There is concern that untreated individuals in mass drug administration (MDA) programs for neglected tropical diseases can reduce the impact of elimination efforts by maintaining a source of transmission and re-infection.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Treatment receipt was recorded against the community census during three MDAs with azithromycin for trachoma in The Gambia, a hypo-endemic setting. Predictors of non-participation were investigated in 1–9 year olds using random effects logistic regression of cross-sectional data for each MDA. Two types of non-participators were identified: present during MDA but not treated (PNT) and eligible for treatment but absent during MDA (EBA). PNT and EBA children were compared to treated children separately. Multivariable models were developed using baseline data and validated using year one and two data, with a priori adjustment for previous treatment status. Analyses included approximately 10000 children at baseline and 5000 children subsequently. There was strong evidence of spatial heterogeneity, and persistent non-participation within households and individuals. By year two, non-participation increased significantly to 10.4% overall from 6.2% at baseline, with more, smaller geographical clusters of non-participating households. Multivariable models suggested household level predictors of non-participation (increased time to water and household head non-participation for both PNT and EBA; increased household size for PNT status only; non-inclusion in a previous trachoma examination survey and younger age for EBA only). Enhanced coverage efforts did not decrease non-participation. Few infected children were detected at year three and only one infected child was EBA previously. Infected children were in communities close to untreated endemic areas with higher rates of EBA non-participation during MDA.
In hypo-endemic settings, with good coverage and no association between non-participation and infection, efforts to improve participation during MDA may not be required. Further research could investigate spatial hotspots of infection and non-participation in other low and medium prevalence settings before allocating resources to increase participation.
Author Summary
As the target year for Global Elimination of Trachoma (GET2020) approaches, the scale up of mass drug administration (MDA) with azithromycin will lead to more endemic areas becoming low prevalence settings. In such areas, identification of those at highest risk of Chlamydia trachomatis infection and at highest risk of non-participation during MDA could inform control planning, especially if correlation is present. We investigated non-participation in children aged 1–9 years during three annual MDAs in The Gambia, a low prevalence setting. We found evidence that non-participation is associated with household membership and decision-making, as seen in medium and high prevalence settings in East Africa. In addition, we demonstrate geographical heterogeneity (spatial clustering) of non-participation, persistent non-participation behaviour over time and different non-participator types. Between the first and third MDA, non-participation increased significantly overall from 6.2% to 10.4%, whilst spatial clusters became smaller with non-participation more focused in single households or small groups of households. There was no evidence of association between infection and non-participation. In low prevalence settings with no evidence to suggest non-participation as a risk factor for infection, resources to improve participation may not be required. Spatial hotspot analysis could address this research question in areas with more infection.
PMCID: PMC4148234  PMID: 25165994
8.  Endemic treponemal diseases 
The endemic treponemal diseases, consisting of yaws, bejel (endemic syphilis) and pinta, are non-venereal infections closely related to syphilis, and are recognized by WHO as neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). Despite previous worldwide eradication efforts the prevalence of yaws has rebounded in recent years and the disease is now a major public health problem in 14 countries. Adequate data on the epidemiology of bejel and pinta is lacking. Each disease is restricted to a specific ecological niche but all predominantly affect poor, rural communities. As with venereal syphilis, the clinical manifestations of the endemic treponemal diseases are variable and can be broken down in to early stage and late stage disease. Current diagnostic techniques are unable to distinguish the different causative species but newer molecular techniques are now making this possible. Penicillin has long been considered the mainstay of treatment for the endemic treponemal diseases but the recent discovery that azithromycin is effective in the treatment of yaws has renewed interest in these most neglected of the NTDs, and raised hopes that global eradication may finally be possible.
PMCID: PMC4162659  PMID: 25157125
Bejel; Neglected tropical diseases; Pinta; Syphilis; Yaws
9.  Risk Factors for Active Trachoma and Ocular Chlamydia trachomatis Infection in Treatment-Naïve Trachoma-Hyperendemic Communities of the Bijagós Archipelago, Guinea Bissau 
Trachoma, caused by ocular infection with Chlamydia trachomatis, is hyperendemic on the Bijagós Archipelago of Guinea Bissau. An understanding of the risk factors associated with active trachoma and infection on these remote and isolated islands, which are atypical of trachoma-endemic environments described elsewhere, is crucial to the implementation of trachoma elimination strategies.
Methodology/Principal Findings
A cross-sectional population-based trachoma prevalence survey was conducted on four islands. We conducted a questionnaire-based risk factor survey, examined participants for trachoma using the World Health Organization (WHO) simplified grading system and collected conjunctival swab samples for 1507 participants from 293 randomly selected households. DNA extracted from conjunctival swabs was tested using the Roche Amplicor CT/NG PCR assay. The prevalence of active (follicular and/or inflammatory) trachoma was 11% (167/1508) overall and 22% (136/618) in 1–9 year olds. The prevalence of C. trachomatis infection was 18% overall and 25% in 1–9 year olds. There were strong independent associations of active trachoma with ocular and nasal discharge, C. trachomatis infection, young age, male gender and type of household water source. C. trachomatis infection was independently associated with young age, ocular discharge, type of household water source and the presence of flies around a latrine.
In this remote island environment, household-level risk factors relating to fly populations, hygiene behaviours and water usage are likely to be important in the transmission of ocular C. trachomatis infection and the prevalence of active trachoma. This may be important in the implementation of environmental measures in trachoma control.
Author Summary
Trachoma, caused by ocular infection with Chlamydia trachomatis, is the leading infectious cause of blindness worldwide. The World Health Organization elimination strategy includes community mass treatment with oral antibiotics, education regarding hygiene and facial cleanliness and environmental improvements. Population-based trachoma prevalence surveys are essential to determine whether community interventions are required. Knowledge of risk factors associated with trachoma and C. trachomatis infection in a particular setting may help prioritise trachoma elimination activities. We conducted a trachoma prevalence survey to establish the prevalence of active (follicular and/or inflammatory) trachoma and C. trachomatis infection on the Bijagós Archipelago of Guinea Bissau. We also collected household risk factor data from survey participants. Active trachoma prevalence was 11% overall and 22% in children aged 1–9 years. C. trachomatis infection prevalence was 18% overall and 25% in children aged 1–9 years. Active trachoma and the presence of C. trachomatis infection were strongly correlated. Risk factors for disease and infection were similar. In this environment, measures of facial cleanliness (ocular and nasal discharge) and household-level risk factors relating to fly populations, hygiene behaviours and water usage are likely to be important in C. trachomatis transmission. This may have implications in the implementation of trachoma elimination activities.
PMCID: PMC4072588  PMID: 24967629
10.  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
11.  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
12.  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
13.  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
14.  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
15.  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
16.  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
18.  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
20.  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
21.  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
22.  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
23.  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
24.  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
25.  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

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