Toward a Simple Risk Assessment Screening Tool for HCV Infection in Egypt

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Asymptomatic patients with HCV infection identified through screening program could benefit not only from treatment but also from other interventions such as counseling to maintain health and avoid risk behaviors. This might prevent the spread of infection and result in significant public health benefits. However, mass screening would quickly deplete resources. This work aims to develop a brief HCV risk assessment questionnaire that inquires initially about a wide range of risk factors found to be potentially associated with HCV infection in order to identify the few most significant questions that could be quickly used to facilitate cost-effective HCV case-finding in the general population in Egypt. An exhaustive literature search was done to include all reported HCV risk factors that were pooled in a 65 item questionnaire. After an initial pilot study, a case-control study was performed that included 1,024 cases and 1,046 controls. In a multivariable model, a list of independent risk factors were found to be significant predictors for being HCV seropositive among two age strata (<45 and >45 years) for each gender. A simplified model that assigned values of the odds ratio as a weight for each factor present predicted HCV infection with high diagnostic accuracy. Attaining the defined cut-off value of the total risk score enhances the effectiveness of screening. HCV risk factors in the Egyptian population vary by age and gender. An accurate prediction screening tool can be used to identify those at high risk who may benefit most from HCV serologic testing. These results are to be further validated in a large scale cross-sectional study to assess the wider use of this tool.

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