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New Microbiol. 2014 Oct;37(4):449-57. Epub 2014 Oct 1.

Point-of-care testing for HCV infection: recent advances and implications for alternative screening.

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Division of Immunology, Transplantation and Infectious Diseases, Vita-Salute University, San Raffaele Scientific Institute, Milan, Italy.


Over the last few years, hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection has emerged as one of the most significant causes of chronic liver disease worldwide, with an estimated prevalence ranging from 2.2 to 3.0%. In Italy, approximately 2% of subjects are infected with HCV. Considering that acute HCV infection is usually asymptomatic, early diagnosis is rare. Those people who develop chronic infection, even though undiagnosed, may suffer serious liver damage, making chronic HCV infection a major health problem. New initiatives are needed to identify a submerged portion of patients with chronic viral hepatitis and to propose controls and antiviral treatments to avoid the progression to liver cirrhosis or hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Since January 2011, the Infectious Diseases Department of San Raffaele Scientific Institute in Milan has been carrying out a prevention program called "EASY test project", using a new oral test, the OraQuick® HCV rapid antibody test (OraSure technologies, Inc.). The main objective of the project is to evaluate the acceptability of an alternative, free and anonymous HCV test offer, available in different settings (Points of Care, STDs Prevention clinics and General Practitioner clinics). From January 2011 to April 2014, 29,600 subjects were approached to inform them about HCV infection and other sexually transmitted diseases; 4,507 (15.2% of the contacted subjects) of them, total eligible volunteers, performed HCV tests on saliva and completed the interview in the alternative POCTs. Twenty-seven subjects (0.6% of the total) turned HCV oral test reactive (27/4.507) during the evaluation period; all of them were confirmed by conventional test. All 27 patients were asymptomatic and without a history of HCV-re- lated symptoms. The results from this analysis suggest that the promotion of alternative HCV test screening has not yet been fully developed as a strategy to increase levels of HCV testing among people at risk for HCV infection. Increasing awareness of these alternative tests among individuals at risk and providers may be an appropriate strategy to increase the number of people who know their serological status. The recent introduction of rapid oral HCV antibody test could completely change the HCV diagnosis approach by facilitating the possibility of testing millions of people worldwide (in particular in the developing countries).

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