Prevalence of trachoma in Aboriginal communities in the Katherine Region of the Northern Territory in 2007

Katrina Roper, Claude-Edouard C Michel, Paul M Kelly and Hugh R Taylor
Med J Aust 2008; 189 (7): 409.

To the Editor: Trachoma, caused by the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis, is the leading cause of infectious blindness worldwide.1 In Australia, the burden of disease falls almost exclusively on the Aboriginal population.2 However, there has been little consistent data collection on the prevalence of trachoma in recent years in Australia.3,4 Furthermore, despite Australian Government recommendations for biennial screening of people aged 40–54 years and annual screening of people aged ≥ 55 years in areas where trachoma is or has been endemic,5 very little screening of older people for trachomatous trichiasis has been conducted.2,4

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  • Katrina Roper1,2
  • Claude-Edouard C Michel3
  • Paul M Kelly1
  • Hugh R Taylor4

  • 1 National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health, Australian National University, Canberra, ACT.
  • 2 Centre for Disease Control, Department of Health and Community Services, Northern Territory Government, Darwin, NT.
  • 3 Department of Haematology, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK.
  • 4 School of Population Health, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, VIC.



We wish to acknowledge the funding and assistance provided by the Fred Hollows Foundation, in particular Alison Edwards, Nick Di Candilo and Bino Toby. We thank the health clinic staff in each community, in particular the Aboriginal Health Workers, and also the Katherine region health services, without whose cooperation this project would not have been possible: Sunrise Health Service, Wurli Wurlijang and Katherine West Health Board. We are grateful for the help of our field assistants Cath Kelaher, Bianca Webb-Pullman, Tomer Shemesh, Anu Mathew, Janet Taylor and Robyn Lilienthal. Katrina Roper conducted this study as part of her scholarship in the Master of Applied Epidemiology (MAE) degree at the Australian National University. The MAE program is funded by the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing. Paul Kelly’s salary is partly supported by the National Health and Medical Research Council.

  • 1. Resnikoff S, Pascolini D, Etya’ale D, et al. Global data on visual impairment in the year 2002. Bull World Health Organ 2004; 82: 844-851.
  • 2. Taylor HR. Eye health in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. Report of a review commissioned by the Commonwealth Minister for Health and Family Services, the Hon Dr Michael Wooldridge. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia, 1997.
  • 3. Mak DB, O’Neill LM, Herceg A, McFarlane H. Prevalence and control of trachoma in Australia, 1997–2004. Commun Dis Intell 2006; 30: 236-247.
  • 4. Tellis B, Keeffe JE, Taylor HR. Surveillance report for active trachoma, 2006: National Trachoma Surveillance and Reporting Unit. Commun Dis Intell 2007; 31: 366-374.
  • 5. Communicable Diseases Network Australia. Guidelines for the public health management of trachoma in Australia. Canberra: Australian Department of Health and Ageing, 2006. (accessed Jan 2008).
  • 6. Thylefors B, Dawson CR, Jones BR, et al. A simple system for the assessment of trachoma and its complications. Bull World Health Organ 1987; 65: 477-483.


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