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Int J Drug Policy. 2015 Nov;26(11):1050-5. doi: 10.1016/j.drugpo.2015.05.001. Epub 2015 Jun 4.

The effect of introducing point-of-care or dried blood spot analysis on the uptake of hepatitis C virus testing in high-risk populations: A systematic review of the literature.

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Medical Research Institute, University of Dundee, Ninewells Hospital and Medical School, Dundee DD1 9SY, UK. Electronic address:
Medical Research Institute, University of Dundee, Ninewells Hospital and Medical School, Dundee DD1 9SY, UK.



Testing for hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection typically relies upon blood samples taken by traditional phlebotomy for laboratory processing. Novel testing methods, including using dried blood spots (DBS) and point-of-care (PoC) testing enable easier access to high risk populations who have less frequent contact with healthcare professionals. Many of these individuals have been exposed to HCV but have not previously been tested. We aimed to establish whether the availability of these novel testing methods increased either uptake of testing or the number of new diagnoses of HCV.


The PubMed, Cochrane and SCOPUS databases were searched for terms relating to the study. References and associated bibliographies were also examined for further relevant articles. Studies were included if they contained quantitative data on frequency of testing and/or new diagnoses following the introduction of PoC and/or DBS testing of high-risk populations. Studies were then examined for findings and limitations and graded upon the quality of evidence provided.


No studies were found which introduced PoC testing and determined its effect on frequency of testing or new diagnoses. Six studies were identified in which DBS testing was introduced and its effect evaluated. Two of the studies were randomised controlled trials, two were prospective cohort studies, one was an ecological study and one was a clinical audit. Populations studied included those attending substance misuse clinics, prisons and needle exchanges. Injection drug use was the commonest risk factor for HCV. Five of the six studies provided evidence that the introduction of DBS testing increased the number of tests, new diagnoses or both.


Current evidence indicates that DBS testing availability may increase the uptake of testing for HCV in high-risk populations. There is currently no evidence regarding the efficacy of PoC testing in these populations.


Dried blood spot; Hepatitis C; Point of care; Testing

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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