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Point-of-care HCV RNA testing improves hepatitis C testing rates and allows rapid treatment initiation among people who inject drugs attending a medically supervised injecting facility.

MacIsaac MB, Whitton B, Anderson J, Cogger S, Vella-Horne D, Penn M, Weeks T, Elmore K, Pemberton D, Winter RJ, Papaluca T, Howell J, Hellard M, Stoové M, Wilson D, Pedrana A, Doyle JS, Clark N, Holmes JA, Thompson AJ.

  • Published 27 Jan 2024

  • Volume 125

  • Pagination 104317

  • DOI 10.1016/j.drugpo.2024.104317.


Background: To achieve hepatitis C virus (HCV) elimination targets, simplified care engaging people who inject drugs is required. We evaluated whether fingerstick HCV RNA point-of-care testing (PoCT) increased the proportion of clients attending a supervised injecting facility who were tested for hepatitis C.

Methods: Prospective single-arm study with recruitment between 9 November 2020 and 28 January 2021 and follow-up to 31 July 2021. Clients attending the supervised injecting facility were offered HCV RNA testing using the Xpert® HCV Viral Load Fingerstick (Cepheid, Sunnyvale, CA) PoCT. Participants with a positive HCV RNA test were prescribed direct acting antiviral (DAA) therapy. The primary endpoint was the proportion of clients who engaged in HCV RNA PoCT, compared to a historical comparator group when venepuncture-based hepatitis C testing was standard of care.

Results: Among 1618 clients who attended the supervised injecting facility during the study period, 228 (14%) engaged in PoCT. This was significantly higher than that observed in the historical comparator group (61/1,775, 3%; p < 0.001). Sixty-five (28%) participants were HCV RNA positive, with 40/65 (62%) receiving their result on the same day as testing. Sixty-one (94%) HCV RNA positive participants were commenced on DAA therapy; 14/61 (23%) started treatment on the same day as diagnosis. There was no difference in the proportion of HCV RNA positive participants commenced on treatment with DAA therapy when compared to the historical comparator group (61/65, 94% vs 22/26, 85%; p = 0.153). However, the median time to treatment initiation was significantly shorter in the PoCT cohort (2 days (IQR 1-20) vs 41 days (IQR 22-76), p < 0.001). Among participants who commenced treatment and had complete follow-up data available, 27/36 (75%) achieved hepatitis C cure.

Conclusions: HCV RNA PoCT led to a significantly higher proportion of clients attending a supervised injecting facility engaging in hepatitis C testing, whilst also reducing the time to treatment initiation.