(RxWiki News) Testing patients for hepatitis C infection might have just gotten a whole lot easier.
A team of researchers from the University of California at Irvine (UC Irvine) have developed a urine test capable of detecting hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection in one step. Traditional blood-based testing for HCV requires two steps and is less affordable, convenient and accessible than the new test, according to these researchers.
"Importantly, for the first time, we can use urine specimens for one-step screening and diagnosing of HCV infection," said study author Ke-Qin Hu, MD, a professor of gastroenterology and hepatology at UC Irvine, in a press release. "Finding a more convenient, easy-to-use and cost-effective screening alternative is imperative, because HCV is significantly under-screened and under-diagnosed."
Hepatitis C is a bloodborne liver infection caused by a virus. In the US, HCV is transmitted primarily through intravenous drug use.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), for reasons not well-understood, between 15 and 25 percent of infected patients are able to clear the virus from their bodies without treatment. For the remaining patients, HCV infection becomes chronic and can lead to life-threatening complications.
According to Dr. Hu and team, while blood-based testing is effective, it's unable to distinguish an active HCV infection from a past one. Thus, when a patient tests positive for HCV, another blood test must be used to confirm that the infection is active. But many developing countries are not equipped to administer this two-step test, as its cost is well above $200 US.
"The ability to detect infection using urine rather than blood ... greatly reduces the cost and necessary clinical infrastructure for screening and diagnosis, helping to promote widespread adoption of the test on a global scale," Dr. Hu said. "Those who are HCV infected can now be cured, before a further liver injury and complications develop, but only if they are diagnosed."
The CDC recommends HCV testing for high-risk patients, including those who have ever used intravenous drugs, had a blood transfusion before 1992, or were born between 1945 and 1965.
This study was presented Nov. 14 to 16 at the Annual Meeting of American Association for the Study of Liver Disease (AASLD). Research presented at conferences may not have been peer-reviewed.
No funding sources or conflicts of interest were disclosed.