Using a surveillance system to identify and treat newly acquired hepatitis C infection

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Abstract

Background and Aim

Hepatitis C treatment uptake in Australia is low. We describe the rate of acute hepatitis C treatment in the Australian state of Victoria by linking the centralized passive notifications system for hepatitis C with the Australian Trial in Acute Hepatitis C (ATAHC), a nationwide clinical trial aimed at providing people with newly acquired hepatitis C with 24 weeks' pegylated interferon monotherapy.

Methods

Mandatory notifications of clinical or laboratory evidence of hepatitis C were further investigated for evidence of newly acquired infection. Followed-up individuals were then screened for eligibility for the ATAHC study (which included documented hepatitis C antibody positivity within the previous 6 months) and offered acute hepatitis C treatment if this was the case. We examined the first 18 months of the recruitment.

Results

A total of 4591 hepatitis C cases were notified with 414 (9%) of these flagged as being potentially newly acquired. Through follow-up of doctors and patients, 160 of these were confirmed as newly acquired; 87 of these 160 (54%) were potentially eligible for ATAHC and were referred to ATAHC researchers. Fourteen (16%) were successfully enrolled in ATAHC. Eight individuals commenced acute hepatitis C treatment during this period.

Conclusion

The use of hepatitis C surveillance system has been successful in identifying cases of newly acquired hepatitis C which are often difficult to identify in a clinical setting. In addition, marginalized patients who may otherwise never have been referred to a clinic are able to access hepatitis C treatment and specialist services. Despite this, only eight out of 87 eligible individuals (9%) began acute hepatitis C treatment.

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