Hepatitis C Will Become a Rare Disease by 2036

First Posted: Aug 05, 2014 06:30 AM EDT

A computer simulation showed that effective use of new drugs and screening would make hepatitis C a rare disease by 2036.

The computer simulation was conducted by the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh. The forecast suggest that the favorable drugs used is helpful in eradicating hepatitis C (HCV) that is one of the leading causes of liver cancer and is responsible for nearly 15,000 deaths per year in the U.S.

Jagpreet Chhatwal, PhD. - the corresponding author on the study - said, "If we can improve access to treatment and incorporate more aggressive screening guidelines, we can reduce the number of chronic HCV cases, prevent more cases of liver cancer and reduce liver-related deaths,"

A virus transmitted through the blood, HCV is spread by sharing needles or using contaminated medical equipment and tattoo piercing equipment that has not been sterilized.  Baby boomers born between 1945 and 1965 face the highest risk of having HCV. It was in 1992 that the widespread screening of the U.S. blood supply for hepatitis C began. Before 1992, majority of people were infected through blood transfusions or organ transplants.

In this study, a mathematical model was used and data of more than 30 clinical trials were analyzed to predict the impact of the new therapy - 'direct-acting antivirals'. The researchers predicted the trends from 2001-2050 and stated that by 2036 only 1 in every 1,500 people will be infected with HCV.

The model predicts one-time HCV screening of baby boomers would help identify 487,000 cases over the next 10 years.

"Making hepatitis C a rare disease would be a tremendous, life-saving accomplishment," said lead author Mina Kabiri, a doctoral student at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health. "However, to do this, we will need improved access to care and increased treatment capacity, primarily in the form of primary care physicians who can manage the care of infected people identified through increased screening."

Such universal screening can also help prevent liver-related deaths, liver transplants and hepatocellular carcinoma.

The results are documented in journals of Annals of Internal Medicine.

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