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Kenyan ophthalmologist develops new trachoma prevalence survey

image-tools (58)“When governments are dealing with other problems like famine and AIDS, prevention of blindness is considered a low-priority health issue,” says Dr Jefitha Karimurio, a Kenyan ophthalmologist who has recently completed his doctoral thesis at CERA and the University of Melbourne.

Dr Karimurio was a senior lecturer at the Department of Ophthalmology at the University of Nairobi in Kenya when he decided to embark on further study in Australia. As part of CERA’s Population Health Unit, Dr Karimurio investigated new ways to effectively measure the prevalence of trachoma in high-risk Kenyan communities.

Trachoma is caused by a bacterial infection and can lead to blindness. It is common in developing countries, and in Australian Indigenous communities due to poor hygiene and lack of immediate antibiotic treatment.

Building on his study at CERA, Dr Karimurio has recently returned to Kenya where he intends to transfer this knowledge to the National Trachoma Program. “I will return to Kenya to train more eye care workers for blindness prevention in Africa, the continent with the highest burden of eye diseases and blindness in the world,” he said.

Blindness prevention and improved eye care delivery are the cornerstones of Dr Karimurio’s work and that of CERA’s Population Health Unit led by Prof Jill Keeffe. Data from the World Health Organization in 2010 showed that there are 39 million people worldwide living with blindness, however up to 80% of these cases were preventable.

“The results of Dr Karimurio’s work will change the methods used in surveys, not only in Kenya but in any country with infectious and blinding trachoma,” observed Prof Keeffe.

“His new methods will improve efficiency in identifying areas where ongoing treatment is needed and estimate the surgical backlog for the blinding stages of trachoma. We look forward to continuing our link with Dr Karimurio to support his work in Kenya and other African countries.”