New York: Recently approved antiviral medications for hepatitis C could reduce the prevalence of the blood-borne infection by more than 80 percent, researchers have estimated.
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.
The direct-acting 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.
To study the effects of the new treatments on the US population, the team developed a model to predict the effect of treatment with direct-acting antivirals over time.
"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 senior author of the study Jeffrey Townsend, associate professor of public health at Yale University in New Haven, US.
More modest increases in screening and treatment would also markedly reduce new infections and mortality, the researchers determined.
"We should be very optimistic about the prospect of eliminating HCV as a disease within the US using these direct acting antivirals, especially if they are combined with targeted behavioural interventions to reduce transmission," Townsend said.
However, he added, "due to the currently high cost of these treatments, as a society we need to think carefully about how to make that happen”.
The study was published online in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.