There Might Be Too Much Emphasis on Risk Factors for Hepatitis C Screening

FEBRUARY 15, 2017
Caitlyn Fitzpatrick
infectious disease, hepatitis C, HCV, hepatology, baby boomers, risk factors, antibody, blood test, CROI 2017

It’s no secret that baby boomers (people born from 1946 to 1964) are at an increased risk of hepatitis C. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that this population is five times more likely to have the virus. But are other at-risk populations being neglected from testing?

Baby boomers are at a higher risk for hepatitis C, but the reason why isn’t completely understood. Some researchers say that hepatitis C transmission was highest from the 1960s to 1980s; others attribute it more to this group was exposed to infected medical equipment before precautions were put into place. This is why the CDC recommends that all people in this population get tested for the liver virus, even if they don’t have any other risk factors. Beyond baby boomers, people who have ever injected drugs and those who received a blood transfusion or organ donation before 1992 are also advised to get tested.

At the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI 2017) in Seattle, Washington, researchers from MedStar Health Research Institute in Maryland presented new data on hepatitis C-positive non-baby boomers.

The study examined 329 non-baby boomers tested from July 1, 2015 to June 30, 2015. The case-control analysis did not match controls for age, sex, or race—although clinical studies typically do—because the researchers wanted to observe potential differences.

Eighty participants (1.7%) were hepatitis C antibody positive (Ab+) or indeterminate and compared to the 249 hepatitis C antibody negative (Ab-) controls.

Baseline characteristics for the 329 participants differed a bit based on if they were Ab+ or Ab-. About 55.8% and 45% were female, 48.2% and 36.3% were African American, and 69.1% and 46.3% held private insurance. The average age differed depending if they were in the baby boomers group or not—around 36 years and 75 years between the two antibody groups.

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