The rate of hepatitis C infections in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in Australia is increasing even as infection rate decreases in the wider community. This is despite the introduction of direct-acting antiviral (DAA) drugs that offer the chance to completely eliminate the hepatitis C virus (HCV).
Going beyond pregnancy and COVID-19, the world could someday soon come to rely on at-home tests for many diseases thanks in part to AI-fuelled improvements. University of Florida (UF) scientists have used artificial intelligence tools to simplify a test that works for both hepatitis C and SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. The simplified test happens in one small test tube in just a few minutes. With further refinement, it could come to doctor’s offices soon and, one day, even home tests that are as easy as a pregnancy test.
Moorundi Aboriginal Controlled Health Service will soon be offering hepatitis C point of care testing (POCT) to the community, along with its new Clean Needle Program (CNP) at the service’s Murray Bridge site. The initiative is part of a push to bring hepatitis rapid testing to regional South Australia, under the umbrella of the world-first National Australia HCV Point of Care Testing Program (HCVPOCT).
New hep C testing/treatment campaign’s successes
The Eliminate Hepatitis C Australia Partnership (EC Australia) was created in 2018 to bring together researchers, scientists, government, health services and community organisations to work toward eliminating hepatitis C as a public health threat in Australia by 2030 (see last issue for more).
Hepatitis C tests are getting easier. That’s the promise on the horizon as new testing methods are introduced or trialed.
Current conventional hepatitis C testing consists of a blood test for hepatitis C antibodies, followed by a PCR test for the hepatitis C RNA, if antibody test comes back positive. There is the usual waiting period of a week or more after each test. For busy people or transient populations, that poses a challenge. Others are put off by the need to draw blood.