Birth cohort hepatitis C antibody prevalence in real-world screening settings in Ontario

BACKGROUND: Widespread screening and treatment of hepatitis C virus (HCV) is required to decrease late-stage liver disease and liver cancer. Clinical Practice Guidelines and Canadian Task Force on Preventative Health Care recommendations differ on the value of one-time birth cohort (1945–75) HCV screening in Canada. To assess the utility of this approach, we conducted a real-world analysis of HCV antibody (Ab) prevalence among birth cohort individuals seen in different clinical contexts.

METHODS: Cross-sectional study of individuals born between 1945 and 1975 who completed HCV Ab testing at multiple participating centres in Ontario, Canada between January 2016 and December 2020. Differences in prevalence were compared by year of birth, gender, and setting.

RESULTS: Among 16,672 birth cohort individuals tested, HCV Ab prevalence was 3.2%. Prevalence was higher among younger individuals which increased from 0.9% among those born between 1945 and 1956 to 4.6% among those born between 1966 and 1975. Prevalence was higher among males (4.4%) compared with females (2.0%) and differed by test site. In primary care, the prevalence was 0.5%, whereas the prevalence was highest among those tested at drug treatment centres (28.7%) and through community outreach (14.0%).

CONCLUSIONS: HCV Ab prevalence remains high in the 1945–1975 birth cohort. These data highlight the need to re-evaluate existing Canadian Preventative Task Force recommendations, to consider incorporating one-time birth cohort and/or other population-based approaches to HCV screening into the clinical workflow as a preventative health measure, and to increase training among community providers to screen for and treat HCV.

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Full citation:
Biondi MJ, Hirode G, Capraru C, Vanderhoff A, Karkada J, Wolfson-Stofko B, Smookler D, Friedman SM, Bates K, Mazzulli T, Juan JV, Shah H, Hansen BE, Feld JJ, Janssen HLA (2022).
Birth cohort hepatitis C antibody prevalence in real-world screening settings in Ontario
Canadian Liver Journal, 5 (3), 362-371. doi: 10.3138/canlivj-2021-0036.