Trachoma is the most common infectious cause of blindness. It is caused by ocular serovars of Chlamydia trachomatis. Transmission is favoured in poor communities, where crowding is common and access to water and sanitation inadequate. Repeated reinfection over many years causes dense scarring of the upper eyelid. The resultant inversion of the lashes abrades the eyeball, and the abrasion leads to corneal opacification and visual impairment. The host immune response is probably at least partly the cause of this process. The "SAFE" strategy is used for the control of trachoma: surgery for in-turned lashes, antibiotics for active disease, facial cleanliness, and environmental improvement. The demonstration that a single oral dose of the antibiotic azithromycin is as effective as 6 weeks of topical tetracycline was an important advance in trachoma control. By means of the SAFE strategy, WHO and its partners aim to eliminate trachoma as a public-health problem by the year 2020.