New York: Researchers have developed a cost-effective one-step test that can screen, detect and confirm hepatitis C virus (HCV) infections from blood or urine samples.
Current blood-based HCV testing requires two steps and can be expensive, inconvenient and is not widely available or affordable globally.
"Our novel HCV antigen test system has significantly improved sensitivity and specificity over current tests,” said one of the researchers Ke-Qin Hu, professor at University of California Irvine School of Medicine in the US.
"Importantly, for the first time, we can use urine specimens for one-step screening and diagnosing of HCV infection," Hu said.
"The ability to detect infection using urine rather than blood avoids needle stick and blood sample collection, greatly reduces the cost and necessary clinical infrastructure for screening and diagnosis, helping to promote widespread adoption of the test on a global scale," Hu explained.
Approximately 150 million people worldwide are infected with HCV, according to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.
Finding a more convenient, easy-to-use and cost-effective screening alternative is imperative, because HCV is significantly under-screened and under-diagnosed, Hu pointed out.
The current HCV screening test requires two steps. First, virus-specific antibodies must be detected in the blood. Then, another test must be administered to confirm whether or not the infection is active.
Hu said many developing countries are not equipped to administer the two-step test.
"Those who are HCV infected can now be cured, before a further liver injury and complications develop, but only if they are diagnosed," Hu noted.
People with an HCV infection do not usually experience symptoms until more serious liver injury develops, such as fibrosis, cirrhosis, or liver cancer.
The findings were presented at the annual meeting of American Association for the Study of Liver Disease (AASLD) in San Francisco, US.