Know your risk for hepatitis C virus

Orlando, FL -- Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is the most common chronic infectious disease in the United States, affecting an estimated 2.7 million people, or nearly two percent of the population. While HCV causes mild, asymptomatic disease in many persons, chronic HCV infection can cause cirrhosis, liver failure, and hepatocellular carcinoma.

Recently, combination treatment for HCV has been able to eradicate the virus in approximately half of all cases, greatly expanding the need for laboratory tests for HCV infection. Because different tests are needed for different purposes, new tests have become available to assist clinicians in diagnosing the presence (or absence) of the infection, and to monitor treatment efficacy.

One of the nations leading investigators will provide an update on the status of HCV testing. D. Robert Dufour, MD, Chief of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Washington, DC and Professor of Pathology at the George Washington University Medical Center, also in Washington, DC will make his remarks during the 54th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Clinical Chemistry (AACC). The meeting, which expects some 11,000 attendees, is being held in Orlando, FL July 28-August 1, 2002.

The Hepatitis C virus is a single stranded RNA virus. To date, it has not been possible to grow the virus in a culture. It is the most common chronic infectious disease in Europe and North America and affects an estimated 170 million people worldwide. There are six different strains or genotypes of the virus, although only three of these are commonly seen in the U.S.

Testing for HCV Exposure
The most widely used test is designed to detect antibodies to one or more HCV proteins. Most laboratories report results as either positive or negative; positive results indicate that the person has been exposed to HCV. The Centers for Disease Control

Contact: Donna J. Krupa
American Association for Clinical Chemistry

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