Hepatitis C is a liver disease caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV). Of those infected with HCV, about 25% will spontaneously clear the virus, and about 75% will develop chronic infection. An estimated 332,414 Canadians were living with chronic HCV infection in 2011.
Early HCV infection is often asymptomatic, and many people may not know they are infected. However, it is estimated that 15% to 25% of patients with chronic HCV infection will develop liver disease or liver cancer within 20 years of infection. Effective treatments are available, but treatments do have side effects, and it is difficult to know which people will develop progressive disease and which people will continue on with no symptoms.
Early detection of HCV infection may lead to early treatment, before patients develop serious liver disease.
The impact of HCV screening is dependent on a number of factors, including prevalence of the condition being screened for, accuracy of the test used to determine the presence of the condition, success of treatment, and known and perceived harms of screening. Some screening programs, therefore, may be driven by demographics or risk profiles.
CADTH is undertaking a systematic review to review the evidence on the clinical effectiveness, harms, cost-effectiveness, and associated patient preferences and values of screening for HCV infection in asymptomatic non-pregnant adults and to determine the clinical validity of HCV antibody or antigen testing strategies for detecting patients with HCV infection.
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