Hepatitis C: Testing Has a Long Way to Go

The explosion in new drugs to treat hepatitis C is leading to predictions the viral infection will no longer be a major health problem. But before that can happen, much has to be done in the realm of public health, researchers said April 25 at the International Liver Congress in Vienna, Austria.

The explosion in new drugs to treat hepatitis C is leading to predictions the viral infection will no longer be a major health problem.

But before that can happen, much has to be done in the realm of public health, researchers said April 25 at the International Liver Congress in Vienna, Austria.

The state of routine testing is dismal, even in Europe, said Jeffrey Lazarus of the University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark. With colleagues Lazarus conducted a systematic review of medical databases to look for research on levels of hepatitis B and hepatitis C testing in the member states of the World Health Organization’s European region.

The studies they found were published between January 2007 and June 2013.

In the review they found 154 studies from only 28 of the 53 countries. More than 2/3 of them were from 6 countries: the UK, Turkey, Germany, Italy, France and the Netherlands.

The populations studied most were people who use drugs, health care patients, and populations tested for reasons related to pregnancy or use of assisted reproductive technology.

But the team was surprised to learn that some of the most at-risk groups, such as prison inmates, had not been studied or routinely tested.

“Public health officials need much more comprehensive information in order to plan effective responses to hepatitis B and hepatitis C in Europe,” the researchers concluded.

Presenting the study at a news conference, Lazarus added “We are particularly concerned about the low numbers of published studies looking at migrants, prison inmates and men who have sex with men,” all of whom are more likely to have contracted the virus and who could also be helped by the new drugs.