Direct-Acting Antivirals Could Eliminate Spread of Hepatitis C

HCV transmission model predicts significant long term effect of direct-acting antivirals.

Antiviral treatments have the potential to reduce the risk of contracting hepatitis C virus (HCV) and possibly eliminate the disease altogether, according to a recent study.

In more than 90% of cases, a newly approved direct-acting antiviral therapy has transformed treatment for HCV patients. This antiviral therapy could help stop HCV through treatments that prevent complications or deaths, and prevent any further transmission between injection drug users.

In a study published in Clinical Infectious Disease performed by a team of researchers from Yale, researchers created a transmission model to predict the effect direct-acting antivirals over time.

Investigators also measured the impact antivirals have, in addition to enhanced screening and treatment rates.

"The key finding is that a 4-fold increase to the number of patients treated each year could virtually eliminate HCV from the non-injecting population within a decade," said senior study author Jeffrey Townsend.

Researchers also found that an increase in treatment and screenings could help reduce new HCV cases and mortality. However, this alone would not be enough to reduce HCV for injection drug users.

"In order to completely eliminate HCV, efforts to access that community are extremely important," said lead author David Durham.

This effort includes treatments and screenings with targeted behavioral interventions, such as needle-exchange programs or opioid substitution therapy.

"We should be very optimistic about the prospect of eliminating HCV as a disease within the US using these direct acting antivirals, especially if they are combined with targeted behavioral interventions to reduce transmission," Townsend said. "Due to the currently high cost of these treatments, as a society we need to think carefully about how to make that happen."