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Risk-based testing missed 35% of HCV-positive prison inmates



Routine testing for hepatitis C virus at inmate entry should be considered by U.S. state prisons, according to Sabrina A. Assoumou, MD, of the Boston Medical Center and her colleagues.

The researchers performed a retrospective analysis of individuals entering the Washington state prison system, which routinely offers hepatitis C virus (HCV) testing, in order to compare routine opt-out testing with current risk-based and one-time testing for individuals born between 1945 and 1965. Additionally, liver fibrosis stage was characterized in blood samples from HCV-positive individuals, the investigators wrote in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine.

Between 2012 and 2016, 24,567 (83%) individuals were tested for HCV antibody, and of these, 4,921 (20%) tested positive. A total of 2,403 (49%) of those testing positive had subsequent hepatitis HCV RNA testing, with 1,727 (72%) of these showing chronic infection.

As expected, Dr. Assoumou and her colleagues found that reactive antibodies was more prevalent in individuals born between 1945 and 1965, compared with other years (44% vs. 17%). However, in actual case numbers, most (72%) were outside of this age bracket. Overall, they calculated that up to 35% of positive HCV tests would be missed using testing targeted by birth cohort and risk behavior alone. Among the chronically infected individuals, 23% had showed at least moderate liver fibrosis.

“Routine opt-out testing identified a substantial number of HCV cases that would have been missed by targeted testing. Almost one-quarter of individuals with chronic HCV had significant liver fibrosis and thus a more urgent need for treatment to prevent complications,” Dr Assoumou and her colleagues concluded.

The researchers reported that they had no conflicts of interest.

SOURCE: Assoumou SA et al, Am J Prev Med. 2019;56:8-16.

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