In the latest issue of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended hepatitis C virus screening for all adults and all pregnant women – during each of their pregnancies – in areas where prevalence of the infection is 0.1% or greater.
That’s essentially the entire United States; there’s no state with a statewide adult prevalence below 0.1%, and “few settings are known to exist” otherwise, the CDC noted (MMWR Recomm Rep. 2020 Apr 10;69(2):1-17).
The agency encouraged providers to consult state or local health departments or the CDC directly to determine local HCV prevalence. “As a general guide ... approximately 59% of anti-HCV positive persons are HCV RNA positive,” indicating active infection, the agency noted.
The advice was an expansion from the CDC’s last universal screening recommendation in 2012, which was limited to people born from 1945 to 1965; the incidence of acute infections has climbed since then and is highest now among younger people, so the guideline needed to be revisited, explained authors led by Sarah Schillie, MD, of the CDC’s Division of Viral Hepatitis, Atlanta.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force also recently recommended universal adult screening after previously limiting it to baby boomers.
As for pregnancy, the CDC’s past advice was to screen pregnant women with known risk factors, but that needed to be revisited as well. For one thing, the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases and the Infectious Diseases Society of America have since recommended testing all pregnant women.
But also, the CDC said, it’s an opportune time for screening because “many women only have access to health care during pregnancy and the immediate postpartum period,” when treatment, if needed, can be started. Plus, HCV status is important for management decisions, such as using amniocentesis in positive women instead of chorionic villus sampling.
The rest of CDC’s 2012 recommendations stand, including screening all people with risk factors and repeating screening while they persist. Also, “any person who requests hepatitis C testing should receive it, regardless of disclosure of risk,” because people might be reluctant to report things like IV drug use, the authors said.
Screening in the guidelines means an HCV antibody test, followed by a nucleic acid test to check for active infection. The CDC encouraged automatic reflex testing, meaning immediately checking antibody positive samples for HCV RNA. RNA in the blood indicates active, replicating virus.
The new recommendations penciled out in modeling, with an incremental cost-effectiveness ratio (ICER) for universal adult screening of approximately $36,000 per quality-adjusted life year (QALY) gained, and an ICER of approximately $15,000 per QALY gained for pregnancy screening, where HCV prevalence is 0.1%; the 0.1% cost/benefit cutpoint was one of the reasons it was chosen as the prevalence threshold. An ICER under $50,000 is the conservative benchmark for cost-effectiveness, the authors noted.
There was no external funding, and the authors had no disclosures.
SOURCE: Schillie S et al. MMWR Recomm Rep. 2020 Apr 10;69:1-17).