New rapid and point of care hepatitis C tests could be global game changers

October 15, 2012, McGill University Health Centre
This is the point of care test for hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection. Credit: Dr. Nitika Pant Pai

Timely screening and diagnosis is critical to the success of new treatments and ultimately to the survival of hepatitis C patients. A new study led by the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI MUHC) is the first to show that hepatitis C rapid and point of care tests with a quick turnaround time are highly accurate and reliable as conventional first-line laboratory tests. This head-to-head analysis, published in the current issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine, will lead to changes in screening practices and ultimately impact the control of hepatitis C infection worldwide.

"We were able to determine that point-of-care and rapid tests in oral fluids and blood ranged in accuracy from 97 to 99 per cent, which is significant," says senior author, Dr. Nitika Pant Pai, Assistant Professor in the Department of Medicine at McGill University and clinical researcher at the RI MUHC. "With their quick turnaround time and convenience we can now use these tests to screen many patients worldwide."

Although conventional lab testing is in place in developed countries, it is available only to those who visit community clinics and specialized hospitals and have a risk profile, or , that warrant screening. Typically, results are available within a week, but may only be communicated to the patient during their next visit, which may be one to three months later. Delays like this may result in reduced patient follow-up and potentially impact transmission of the virus in the community.

Accurate and reliable point-of-care tests and rapid tests offer an alternative to standard tests. "First generation point-of-care tests are convenient, effective and informative for making," explains Dr. Pant Pai. "These tests usually don't require specialized equipment, they can provide results within 30 minutes, or maximally within one patient visit or one working day, and many do not require electricity," adds Sushmita Shivkumar, lead author of the study and a medical student at McGill University.

More than 170 million people are infected with worldwide due to unsafe blood transfusion, injection drug use and unsafe therapeutic injections. Hepatitis C and HIV co-infections contribute substantially to disease burden in North America, but the affect of the disease is highest in Africa and Asia. "With promising oral drugs for Hepatitis C on the horizon, accurate and reliable point-of-care and rapid tests will allow millions of infected individuals worldwide to be diagnosed and treated," explains the study's co-author Dr. Rosanna Peeling, Professor and Chair of Diagnostics Research at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.

"These tests have the potential to be game changers on a global scale, particularly where first line conventional laboratory based testing is not financed by under-resourced health systems," concludes Dr. Pant Pai. "It is now time to optimize their potential by integrating them in routine practice settings."

Explore further: Saliva HIV test passes the grade

More information: Accuracy of rapid and point-of-care screening tests for hepatitis C: A systemic review and meta-analysis, annals.org/article.aspx?articleid=1379774

Related Stories

Saliva HIV test passes the grade

January 24, 2012
A saliva test used to diagnose the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), is comparable in accuracy to the traditional blood test, according to a new study led by the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre ...

How accurate are rapid flu tests? New research could lead to more timely diagnosis

February 27, 2012
A new study conducted by researchers from McGill University, the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI MUHC), and Sainte-Justine University Hospital Research Centre, Montreal, has put the accuracy ...

Overcoming barriers to point-of-care testing in low-resource settings

September 4, 2012
In a Policy Forum article in this week's PLOS Medicine Madhukar Pai from McGill University, Canada and colleagues discuss a framework for how point-of-care testing can be applied to infectious diseases in low- and middle-income ...

Recommended for you

Onions could hold key to fighting antibiotic resistance

January 22, 2018
A type of onion could help the fight against antibiotic resistance in cases of tuberculosis, a UCL and Birkbeck-led study suggests.

New long-acting approach for malaria therapy developed

January 22, 2018
A new study, published in Nature Communications, conducted by the University of Liverpool and the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine highlights a new 'long acting' medicine for the prevention of malaria.

Virus shown to be likely cause of mystery polio-like illness

January 22, 2018
A major review by UNSW researchers has identified strong evidence that a virus called Enterovirus D68 is the cause of a mystery polio-like illness that has paralysed children in the US, Canada and Europe.

Study ends debate over role of steroids in treating septic shock

January 19, 2018
The results from the largest ever study of septic shock could improve treatment for critically ill patients and save health systems worldwide hundreds of millions of dollars each year.

New approach could help curtail hospitalizations due to influenza infection

January 18, 2018
More than 700,000 Americans were hospitalized due to illnesses associated with the seasonal flu during the 2014-15 flu season, according to federal estimates. A radical new approach to vaccine development at UCLA may help ...

Flu may be spread just by breathing, new study shows; coughing and sneezing not required

January 18, 2018
It is easier to spread the influenza virus (flu) than previously thought, according to a new University of Maryland-led study released today. People commonly believe that they can catch the flu by exposure to droplets from ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.