A single dose of azithromycin taken orally post-surgery can reduce the recurrence of trichiasis, a vision-threatening condition of the eyelid, by up to one-third, according to a study published in the Archives of Ophthalmology. The study, which was funded by the National Eye Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), compared the effect of azithromycin to that of the regularly prescribed tetracycline, an ointment applied directly to the eye.

The study, known as the Surgery for Trichiasis, Antibiotics to Prevent Recurrence (STAR) trial, followed 1,452 patients in Ethiopia who had undergone surgery for trichiasis -- a condition in which the eyelid turns inward and the eyelashes rub against the eye, resulting in corneal scarring. In those patients who received azithromycin, the recurrence of the condition was 33 percent less than the recurrence rate for patients treated with tetracycline.

"When we consider that an estimated 11 million people worldwide develop trichiasis every year, we see the impact that the findings of this study may have in preventing future vision loss," said Elias Zerhouni, director of the NIH, of the study.