Health researchers at UC Irvine have successfully developed an economical single-step test that screens, detects and confirms hepatitis C virus (HCV) infections. The findings will be presented at the Annual Meeting of American Association for the Study of Liver Disease (AASLD) in San Francisco, Nov. 14-16 by Dr. Ke-Qin Hu, Director of Hepatology Services.

Hepatitis C Scenario

Individuals infected with the Hep-C virus usually do not start exhibiting symptoms until severe liver injury, such as cirrhosis, fibrosis, and even liver cancer. Currently, blood-based HCV testing involves two steps and is expensive, inconvenient and not easily accessible worldwide.

Even though the present HCV screening test is sensitive and specific, it lacks the capacity to differentiate between active and previous infection. The test firstly detects the presence of virus-specific antibodies in a blood sample. It then runs a HCV RNA PCR test to confirm whether the infection is active.

According to the researchers, most developing countries do not have the resources to conduct this two-step test, especially the PCR. The cost in the US alone is more than $200.

New Hepatitis C Test Can Save Time And Money

“Our novel HCV antigen test system significantly improves sensitivity as well as specificity over currently available tests. More importantly, for the first time, urine specimens can be used for a one-step screening and diagnostic test of HCV infection”, said Hu, Professor of Gastroenterology and Hepatology at UC Irvine School of Medicine. “Developing a more convenient, easy-to-use and cost-effective screening alternative was imperative, since Hepatitis C is potentially under-screened and under-diagnosed”.

“Our test avoids blood sample collection, significantly reduces cost and the need for elaborate clinical infrastructure for screening and diagnosis. These factors will help promote the global adoption of this test,” Hu stated.

What The CDC Has To Say

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 3.2 million in the US and about 150 million around the world and are infected with Hepatitis C. Hence, effective and efficient screening and diagnostic measures are imperative for timely treatment and control.

“Those infected with HCV can now be cured, before progressive liver injury and complications develop – but only if they are diagnosed”, Hu concluded.