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Who to test and how to test for chronic hepatitis C infection – 2016 WHO testing guidance for low- and middle-income countries

  • Philippa J. Easterbrook
    Correspondence
    Corresponding author. Address: HIV Department, World Health Organization, Avenue Appia 20, 1211, Geneva 27, Switzerland. Tel.: +41 22 791 4518.
    Affiliations
    Global Hepatitis Programme, HIV Department, World Health Organization, Geneva, Switzerland
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  • on behalf of theWHO Guidelines Development Group
    Author Footnotes
    ⁎⁎ See Acknowledgements
  • Author Footnotes
    ⁎⁎ See Acknowledgements

      Summary

      Testing and diagnosis of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is the gateway for access to both treatment and prevention services, and crucial for an effective hepatitis epidemic response. In contrast to HIV, a systematic approach to hepatitis C testing has been fragmented and limited to a few countries, and there remains a large burden of undiagnosed cases globally. Key challenges in the current hepatitis testing response, include lack of simple, reliable, and low cost diagnostic tests, laboratory capacity, and testing facilities; inadequate data to guide country-specific hepatitis testing approaches and who to test; stigmatization and social marginalization of some groups with or at risk of viral hepatitis; and lack of international or national guidelines on hepatitis testing for resource-limited settings.
      New tools to support the hepatitis global response include the 2016 Global Hepatitis Health Sector Strategy which include targets for testing and diagnosis, and World Health Organization (WHO) 2016 hepatitis testing guidelines for adults, adolescents, and children in low- and middle-income countries. The testing guidance complements recent published WHO guidance on the prevention, care and treatment of chronic hepatitis C and hepatitis B infection.
      These testing guidelines outline the public health approach to strengthening and expanding current testing practices for HCV and HBV and address what serological and virological assays to use, and who to test, as well as interventions to promote linkage to prevention and care after testing. They are intended for use across all age groups and populations. See boxes for key recommendations.
      Future directions and innovations in viral hepatitis testing include use of point-of-care assays for nucleic acid testing (NAT) and core antigen; validation of dried blood spots specimens with different commercial serological and NAT assays; multiplex and polyvalent platforms for integrated testing of HIV, HBV and HCV; and potential for self-testing.

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