Hepatitis C could be eliminated from cities, leading specialist says

Hepatitis C could be eliminated from UK cities in the next decade if targeted treatment is given political support, a leading liver specialist believes.

Treating small numbers of infected drug users could eliminate hepatitis C
Treating small numbers of infected drug users could eliminate hepatitis C

Professor Graham Foster, professor of hepatology at Queen Mary’s University of London, raised the prospect of eradicating the virus at the City Health 2012 conference in London.

‘This is the moment when we can actually look Hepatitis C in the eye and eliminate it,' he said. 'I mean "eliminate it" as in take it off the planet.'

Professor Foster said computer simulations showed that successfully treating relatively small numbers of patients could eradicate the virus from major cities. Small reductions in the number of drug users infected with hepatitis C would lead to dramatic reductions in the rate at which the virus is transmitted, he said.

‘The bottom line is that you don’t need to treat very many,’ he said. ‘Ten per 1,000 or 40 per 1,000 will get rid of this virus in most populations. Even in the worse-case scenario, 100 patients per 1,000 is going to get rid of this virus in our lifetime.’

Professor Foster said improved treatments would soon be available making successful treatment easier to achieve. ‘We may be looking, in the next 18 months to two years at combination therapy, with only tablets for three months, with massive cure rates,’ he said.

‘Just think how that changes the dynamic of hepatitis C eradication,' he added. 'All you have to do is to persuade injecting drug users to take pills for three months, one pill a day with directly observed therapy, and the virus disappears.’

Professor Foster said GPs and other healthcare workers had managed to identify most of the injecting drug users who had hepatitis C. Treatment services now needed to improve so that they were well advertised and easily accessible to patients.

‘We can pick these people up, give them treatment, and cure it,’ he said. ‘What do we need to do? Well, we just need to get on and deliver it. This is going to require considerable political support.’

He added: ‘The alternative is that we let people die, and they’re going to die expensive, unpleasant deaths, from all the complications of liver failure.… Homeless people with hepatitis C are not going to go away. They either going to die or they’re going to get treated.’

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Register

Already registered?

Sign in

Follow Us:

Just published

Social distancing should be cut to 1m in practices, says new IPC guidance

Social distancing should be cut to 1m in practices, says new IPC guidance

Practices can reduce social distancing from 2m to 1m providing the continued use...

Working as a full-time GP in clinical practice is becoming unsafe, RCGP chair warns

Working as a full-time GP in clinical practice is becoming unsafe, RCGP chair warns

The government needs to understand that general practice is a 'safety critical occupation'...

Face-to-face care debate 'too polarised', says NHS England's top GP

Face-to-face care debate 'too polarised', says NHS England's top GP

The face-to-face care debate has become 'too polarised', NHS England's top GP has...

GPs can apply learning from COVID-19 pandemic to fight climate emergency

GPs can apply learning from COVID-19 pandemic to fight climate emergency

GPs can apply learning from the COVID-19 response to help fight the climate emergency...

GP who lost her job to long COVID urges doctors not to underestimate the condition

GP who lost her job to long COVID urges doctors not to underestimate the condition

A GP with long COVID has urged other doctors to listen to patients who have the illness...

GPs must demand strong voice in COVID-19 public inquiry

GPs must demand strong voice in COVID-19 public inquiry

General practice must ensure its voice is heard as national inquiries into the initial...