Nation's First Hepatitis B Virus Quantitative Test Launched

The new test service helps physicians assess patient’s responses to antiretroviral therapy for HBV.

Quest Diagnostics recently launched the first new quantitative test for hepatitis B virus (HBV) to evaluate a patient’s response to antiretroviral therapy, according to a company press release.

Although the current HBV surface antigen (HBsAg) qualitative test helps physicians diagnosis HBV, the new test service measures the quantity, not just the presence, of viral antigen in the blood.

The test will help physicians better monitor the response to ART, and modify or adjust treatment to help minimize the likelihood of progression and reactivation, according to the release.

“The widespread availability of quantitative HBsAg testing through Quest for use by hepatologists, gastroenterologists, and other specialists will advance the care of HBV-infected patients,” said Robert G. Gish, MD, medical director of the Hepatitis B Foundation and principal, Robert G. Gish Consultants LLC. “The ability to reliably quantify surface antigen will enhance clinicians’’ ability to stage patient’s disease state, provide prognostic information, and help guide care with current antivirals and new therapies that are in the development pipeline.”

The current treatment for HBV is ART or interferon alpha PEG-IFN, and unlike the hepatitis C virus, which is treated with direct acting drugs (DAAs) and have a high success rate, the success rates are lower for HBV due to the persistent nature of the virus, and low compliance rate with long-term therapies, according to the release.

“An estimated 850,000 to 2.2 million persons in the [United States] are infected with chronic hepatitis B,” said Rick L. Pesano, MD, PhD, vice president of research and development, Quest Diagnostics. “While there are effective therapies that can functionally cure HBV infection, physicians in the [United States] have lacked tools that help predict individualized patient response to those treatments. With this new test capability, physicians can better develop tailored treatment plans and monitor HBV-infected patients to help prevent progression and better their chance for long-term immunity.”