Point-of-care hep C test developed

Monday, 24 April, 2017

A research team led by UNSW’s Kirby Institute has evaluated a new test that enables diagnosis of hepatitis C infection in a single visit, with promising results. Their study has been published in The Lancet Gastroenterology & Hepatology.

The researchers conducted the first evaluation of the Xpert HCV Viral Load test, manufactured by molecular diagnostics company Cepheid — a point-of-care hepatitis C virus test that can detect active infection from a finger-stick sample of blood. They established that the test demonstrated good sensitivity and specificity in blood tests collected by finger-stick in participants attending drug health and homelessness services in Australia.

“This test represents a major advance over point-of-care antibody-based tests, which only indicate previous exposure to the virus but cannot detect whether you are actively infected,” said Associate Professor Jason Grebely from The Kirby Institute. “We really need to scale up testing for active hepatitis C infection in order to enhance diagnosis, get people linked to appropriate care and provide highly curative treatment with direct-acting antivirals to prevent advanced liver disease and onward transmission of the virus.”

Importantly, new point-of-care platforms enable detection of hepatitis C virus and diagnosis of active infection in a single visit, rather than having to come back for a second visit to obtain test results. As noted by Associate Professor Grebely, “Requiring people to come back for a second appointment to receive their results can present significant barriers, especially for people living in remote areas and for vulnerable and marginalised populations… who are the people we need to reach the most in order to eliminate hepatitis C.”

The finger-stick test is not yet registered in Australia, but international clinical trials are underway to evaluate this point-of-care assay as a diagnostic test for the detection of active HCV infection.

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