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International Trachoma Initiative

Co-founded in 1998 with a grant from Pfizer and the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation, the International Trachoma Initiative (ITI) aims to meet the World Health Organization's (WHO) call to eliminate trachoma, the world's leading infectious cause of blindness, by 2020.


Trachoma is an infectious eye disease and one of the world's leading causes of preventable blindness. Repeated trachoma infections can cause the eyelids to turn in and lashes to scrape the eyeball with each blink, causing great pain and cornea scarring. This condition is called trichiasis, and without immediate, corrective surgery, a person with trichiasis will slowly and painfully become blind1.

Trachoma is believed to be a public health problem in 44 countries, primarily in Africa and Asia - globally, more than 142 million people live in trachoma-endemic areas. Because it is transmitted through close personal contact, trachoma tends to occur in clusters-often infecting entire families and communities1.

However, it is treatable and preventable. The World Health Organisation (WHO) endorses a series of simple interventions known as the SAFE Strategy: Surgery, Antibiotics, Facial cleanliness and Environmental improvements. In order to prevent permanent blindness and disability from trachoma, each of these interventions must be implemented over the long term1.

Since 1999, Pfizer has donated over 890 million antibiotic treatments2 in 40 countries3 and has committed to the donation programme until 2025, if required, to help achieve global elimation of trachoma. Pfizer’s continued donation programme will help accelerate progress made to reduce trachoma through increased donations.

In 2019, just over 142 million people are at risk of trachoma, a 91% reduction from the 1.5 billion in 20024. Additionally, 8 countries have been validated by WHO as having eliminated trachoma since 2011, signifying a major milestone in the campaign to eliminate trachoma4.

Pfizer has a long and proud history in the development of antibiotics. It is both uplifting and humbling to see our science working in combination with the SAFE Strategy to benefit such a large number of people in such a significant way."

Dr Berkeley Philips, Pfizer UK Medical Director



  1. World Health Organisation. 'Trachoma factsheet'. [Online]. Last accessed September 2019
  2. International Trachoma Initiative. [Online] Last accessed October 2019
  3. International Trachoma Initiative. '20th Anniversary'. [Online] Last accessed September 2019
  4. World Health Organisation. 'Eliminating trachoma: WHO announces sustained progress with hundreds of millions of people no longer at risk of infection'. [Online] Last accessed October 2019
PP-PFE-GBR-2062 / Oct 2019