Liver function tests in primary care provide a key opportunity to diagnose and engage patients with hepatitis C

A. McLeod, S.J. Hutchinson*, A. Weir, S. Barclay, J. Schofield, C. Gillespie Frew, D.J. Goldberg, M. Heydtmann, E. Wilson-Davies

*Corresponding author for this work

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Abstract

Since the advent of direct acting antiviral therapy, elimination of hepatitis c virus (HCV) as a public health concern is now possible. However, identification of those who remain undiagnosed, and re- engagement of those who are diagnosed but remain untreated, will be essential to achieve this. We examined the extent of HCV infection among individuals undergoing liver function tests (LFT) in primary care.
Residual biochemistry samples for 6007 patients, who had venous blood collected in primary care for LFT between July 2016 and January 2017, were tested for HCV antibody. Through data linkage to national and sentinel HCV surveillance databases, we also examined extent of diagnosed infection, attendance at specialist service and HCV treatment for those found to be HCV positive. Overall HCV antibody prevalence was 4.0% and highest for males (5.0%), those aged 37-50 years (6.2%), and with an ALT result of 70 or greater (7.1%). Of those testing positive, 68.9% had been diagnosed with HCV in the past, 84.9% before the study period. Most (92.5%) of those diagnosed with chronic infection had attended specialist liver services and while 67.7% had ever been treated only 38% had successfully cleared infection. More than half of HCV positive people required assessment, and potentially treatment, for their HCV infection but were not engaged with services during the study period. LFT in primary care are a key opportunity to diagnose, re-diagnose and re-engage patients with HCV infection and highlight the importance of GPs in efforts to eliminate HCV as a public health concern.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere133
JournalEpidemiology and Infection
Volume150
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 27 Jun 2022

Keywords

  • hepatitus C
  • epidemiology
  • surveillance
  • virology/human
  • public health

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