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Hepatitis C

World Health Organization Publishes 3 Key New Recommendations on Hepatitis C Infection

  • July 8, 2022
  • 2 mins read

On 24 June 2022, World Health Organization published 3 key new recommendations on hepatitis C infection during a joint WHO-EASL-CDC symposium at the EASL International Liver Congress 2022 in London. These key new recommendations recommend a radical simplification of the care pathway to enhance the access of testing and treatment of hepatitis C virus infection.

According to Dr. Meg Doherty, Director of WHO Global HIV, Hepatitis and STI Programmes, “Hepatitis is the most devastating disease on earth, but it’s also the most preventable and treatable disease, with services that can be delivered comfortably and cheaply at the primary healthcare level.”

“These new recommendations are a step in an appropriate manner and the acceptance of these recommendations has the potential to significantly boost access to testing and treatment in low and middle-income territories,” Dr. Meg Doherty added.

As per 2019 data, 58 million people live with chronic hepatitis C infection which results in approximately 400,000 deaths each year. In 2016, the specialized agency of the United Nations set out ambitious objectives to wipe out viral hepatitis B and C as a public health threat by 2030.

While considerable progress has been made in so many champion countries, there remains an extensive gap between testing and treatment. In 2019, still, just 21 percent of the 58 million with chronic hepatitis C infection had been diagnosed, overall, 13 percent were treated.

WHO’s new global health sector tactics set new actions and objectives to wipe out viral hepatitis by 2030, by driving new infections and deaths down to half a million each, globally: a reduction of 90 and 65 percent, respectively.

In order to achieve this, we need to urgently focus on simplifying hepatitis care, while considering innovative diagnostics to make care more accessible to more people in need.

The 3 key new recommendations of WHO include:

Simplified Service Delivery & Task Sharing: The agency is recommending a shift to delivering testing and treatment in primary care, at harm reduction sites, and in prisons, and to care delivered by general practitioners and nurses, instead of specialists.

More Efficient & Simplified Diagnostics of Hepatitis: The use of point-of-care HCV RNA assays is now recommended as a supplementary approach alongside laboratory-based RNA assays in order to diagnose the infection. This is typically applicable to marginalized populations, such as individuals who inject drugs, and hard-to-reach communities with limited access to health care and high rates of loss to follow-up.

Harmonized & Simplified Treatment of Hepatitis for Children and Adolescents: For the first time, treatment is now recommended for all children and adolescents down to age three years. These recommendations align existing DAA regimens for adults (sofosbuvir/daclatasvir), (sofosbuvir/velpatasvir), and (glecaprevir/pibrentasvir) for use in children and adolescents. This may help simplify the procurement, help promote access to treatment among children in low- and middle-income countries and contribute to global efforts to wipe out the disease. At some point, there were no DAA regimens approved for children. Apart from this, there had been less awareness of addressing hepatitis C virus infection in children and adolescents. In the year 2018, there were approximately 3.26 million children and adolescents, ages 18 years and younger, living with chronic HCV infection. Early diagnosis and treatment in children and adolescents are a major key to preventing long-term morbidity linked with chronic hepatitis C infection.

https://www.who.int/news/item/24-06-2022-WHO-publishes-updated-guidance-on-hepatitis-C-infection