Publications & Reports

Childhood mortality in a cohort treated with mass azithromycin for trachoma.

Jeremy D Keenan, Berhan Ayele, Teshome Gebre, Mulat Zerihun, Zhaoxia Zhou, Jenafir I House, Bruce D Gaynor, Travis C Porco, Paul M Emerson, Thomas M Lietman
F.I. Proctor Foundation, San Francisco, CA, USA. [email protected]


BACKGROUND: Mass azithromycin distributions are used to clear ocular strains of chlamydia that cause trachoma, but treatments may also affect respiratory infections, diarrhea, and malaria. Here, we monitor a large cohort in which almost 90% of individuals received azithromycin. We assess whether receiving treatment is associated with reduced all-cause and infectious childhood mortality. METHODS: As part of a clinical trial for trachoma, a census was conducted in 24 communities in rural Ethiopia. All individuals >/=1 year of age were eligible for single-dose oral azithromycin, although antibiotic coverage was not universal. A follow-up census was performed 26 months after treatment to estimate all-cause mortality among children 1-5 years of age, and verbal autopsies were performed to identify infectious mortality. RESULTS: The cohort included 35,052 individuals >/=1 year of age and 5507 children 1-5 years of age, of whom 4914 received a dose of azithromycin. All-cause mortality was significantly lower among those 1-5-year-old children who received azithromycin (odds ratio [OR]=0.35 [95% confidence interval {CI}, 0.17-0.74]), as was infectious mortality (OR=0.20 [95% CI, 0.07-0.58]). When individuals were compared only with members of the same household, azithromycin treatment was still associated with reduced all-cause mortality in children 1-5 years of age (OR=0.40 [95% CI, 0.16-0.96]), although this relationship was not statistically significant for infectious mortality (OR=0.35 [95% CI, 0.10-1.28]). CONCLUSIONS: This study demonstrated an association between mass oral azithromycin treatment and reduced all-cause and infectious childhood mortality. This relationship could not be attributed to bias at the level of the household. Mass azithromycin distributions may have benefits unrelated to trachoma.


  • Journal: Clinical Infectious Diseases
  • Published: 01/04/2011
  • Volume: 52
  • Issue: 7
  • Pagination: 883-888