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

FEBRUARY 15, 2017
Caitlyn Fitzpatrick
Risk factors that could contribute to hepatitis C infections were documented among the participants. For the Ab+ and Ab- groups, participants had opiate prescriptions (40% and 20.1%), elevated liver function tests (17.5% and 14.5%), drug use (35% and 1.6%), high sexual behavior (6.3% and 16.9%), renal disease (2.5% and 2%), sexually transmitted infections (10% and 10%), and HIV (5% and 2.8%). One participant had a blood transfusion (Ab+), two had cirrhosis (Ab+), and three had alcohol abuse (two Ab+, one Ab-).

About 50% of participants in age clusters 46 to 50 and 71 to 75 tested positive.

“There was a significant interaction for age and opiate prescription use with those over 40 with an opiate prescribed 11x more likely to be hepatitis C Ab+,” the researchers explained. Participants were also more likely to be hepatitis C Ab+ if they had drug use, Medicaid (over private insurance), and were Caucasian (over any other race).

Previous research has found that drug use is a strong indicator of hepatitis C-positive status, and this recent study backs that up. But they found that more non-baby boomers with hepatitis C are Caucasian than African American—which is the opposite among baby boomers.

A total of 18 hepatitis C Ab+ (23%) and 123 hepatitis C Ab- (49%) participants did not have any risk factors indicated in the study.

“Testing non-[baby boomer] patients only on the basis of risk factors has the potential to miss a significant number of hepatitis C Ab+ patients,” the team concluded.

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