New York: Novel antiviral therapies for hepatitis C virus (HCV) could reduce the prevalence of the blood-borne infection by more than 80 per cent, a new study has found.
Recently approved direct-acting antiviral medications have transformed treatment for individuals with hepatitis C virus (HCV), and are effective in over 90 per cent of cases.
The antivirals have the potential to significantly reduce or eliminate HCV in two ways - through treatment to prevent HCV-related complications and deaths, and by preventing further transmission among injection-drug users.
The finding raises the possibility of greatly reducing, and even eliminating, hepatitis C if enhanced screening and treatment efforts target high-risk populations - injection-drug users.
Researchers at the University of Yale in US developed a transmission model to predict the effect of treatment with direct-acting antivirals over time.
They also quantified the impact of use of the antivirals at current and at enhanced screening and treatment rates.
Their analysis included outcomes such as cirrhosis, liver transplants, and mortality.
"The key finding is that a four-fold increase to the number of patients treated each year could virtually eliminate HCV from the non-injecting population within a decade," said Jeffrey Townsend, associate professor of public health at the University of Yale.
The researchers noted that more modest increases in screening and treatment would also markedly reduce new infections and mortality.
Efforts to reduce HCV may include enhanced screening and treatment with the new therapies in combination with targeted behavioural interventions such as needle-exchange programmes or opioid substitution therapy, researchers said.
The findings were published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.