The neglected tropical disease (NTD) trachoma is currently the leading cause of eye disease in the world, and the pathogenic bacteria causing this condition, Chlamydia trachomatis, is also the most common sexually transmitted pathogenic bacterium. Although the serovars of this bacterial species typically vary between ocular and genital infections there is a clear connection between genital C. trachomatis infections and the development of trachoma in infants, such that the solutions to these infections are closely related. It is the unique life cycle of the C. trachomatis bacteria which primarily leads to chronic infections and challenges in treatment using conventional antibiotics. This life cycle involves stages of infective elementary bodies (EBs) and reproductive reticulate bodies (RBs). Most antibiotics only target the reproductive RBs and this often leads to the need for prolonged therapy which facilitates the development of drug resistant pathogens. It is through combining several compounds to obtain multiple antimicrobial mechanisms that we are most likely to develop a reliable means to address all these issues. Traditional and ethnobotanical medicine provides valuable resources for the development of novel formulations and treatment regimes based on synergistic and multi-compound therapy. In this review we intend to summarize the existing literature on the application of natural compounds for controlling trachoma and inhibiting chlamydial bacteria and explore the potential for the development of new treatment modalities.
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