Rapid Hepatitis C Test Could Improve Diagnosis, Treatment

11 months ago 17

July 8, 2021 -- A simpler version of a test for the hepatitis C virus (HCV) may open testing to people in areas where medical care is limited.

“Although not yet developed, such a test could be a game changer and have a substantial impact on the feasibility and cost of HCV elimination, especially in low- and middle-income countries,” says Madeline Adee, MPH, of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

Adee and her co-researchers have proposed that in less wealthy countries or in areas of the U.S. where medical laboratories are few and far between, using a simple and cheap -- but less accurate -- test for HCV infection could identify more people who are infected with HCV and should be treated.

A Silent Killer

Hepatitis C infects the liver and can go undetected for many years, as it does not always cause symptoms. But long-term HCV infections can lead to scarring of the liver (cirrhosis), liver cancer, liver failure, and other serious medical problems.

The CDC recommends that all adults get tested at least once for hepatitis C infection. Testing is especially important for people who had a blood transfusion before July of 1992 (when testing of blood for hepatitis infections began), or received blood from a donor who later tested positive for HCV, the federal agency says. Testing is also recommended for people with liver problems, and health care workers, first responders, or others who may have been exposed to HCV-infected needles.

HCV can be detected with a blood test to check for antibodies to the virus. Yet more than 1 in 5 people who test positive with this method may have a false-positive result, meaning that there is no virus in their bodies.

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