Announced on Wednesday 13 March, Kirby Institute research aimed to enhance testing and treatment for hepatitis C (HCV) received $2 million through Medical Research Future Fund's Clinical Trials Activity scheme.
“Australia could be one of the first countries in the world to eliminate hepatitis C, however increasing testing and treatment uptake will be essential to achieve the goals set by the WHO,” says Prof Jason Grebely from the Kirby Institute, who is the chief investigator on this grant. “Currently, testing and treatment is hampered because existing pathways require multiple healthcare visits.”
The Kirby Institute-led team will evaluate novel HCV point-of-care testing strategies to optimise scale-up of HCV testing and treatment in Australia. This includes a new one-minute point of care HCV antibody test and a point-of-care RNA test that can detect active HCV infection in one hour, enabling same-visit diagnosis and treatment. As part of the evaluation, the researchers will conduct a randomised trial to assess the effect two different testing strategies.
“This will be crucial to assess the effectiveness, cost-effectiveness, and acceptability of point-of-care hepatitis C testing strategies,” says Prof Grebely. “Based on our findings will develop an implementation toolkit and plan to facilitate scale-up of optimal point-of-care HCV testing strategies nationally and internationally to ensure our findings directly improve health outcomes in people with chronic HCV infection.
In Australia, the key populations affected by hepatitis C are people who inject drugs and people in prison, so the researchers will work in close partnership with a range of services to implement the program, including drug treatment clinics, needle and syringe programs, community health centres, and prisons.
Other chief investigators on this project from the Kirby Institute are Prof Gregory Dore, Dr Alison Marshall, Dr Evan Cunningham, Dr Sophy Shih, Dr Richard Gray, Dr Lise Lafferty, Dr Louise Causer & Dr Marianne Martinello. Prof Carla Treloar from UNSW is also a chief investigator, and the research will be conducted in partnership with St Vincent's Hospital Sydney, Flinders University, The University of Newcastle, the Burnet Institute, and Yale University.