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Mission to eradicate Hepatitis-C moves forward

4 April 2019

Dr Ryan Buchanan has been working with NIHR CLAHRC Wessex and University Hospitals Southampton NHS Foundation Trust on an innovative project to help to identify people with Hepatitis-C. 

Hepatitis C is a virus that can infect the liver. If left untreated, it can sometimes cause serious and potentially life-threatening damage to the liver over many years. However, with modern treatments it's usually possible to cure the infection, and most people with it will have a normal life expectancy. It's estimated around 215,000 people in the UK have hepatitis C. The symptoms of Hep-C aren't often noticed until damage to the liver is quite extensive.

NHS England has set a target of eradicating Hepatitis C by 2025, and that's where Dr Buchanan and his colleague Dr Charlotte Cook become involved. 

After a successful pilot project on the Isle of Wight, Dr Buchanan has extended that work to Southampton and further afield. Dr Cook is taking over the project called Southampton City Hepatitis C Elimination Project (SoCHCe) and has been working with stakeholders and pharmacists in the city to deploy a simple blood test to screen hard to reach communities at risk of the virus.

The team is also working with Solent NHS Trust and its sexual health service to also screen for HIV with the hope of reducing transmission of the virus.

Hepatitis-C is a blood borne virus so people vulnerable to exposure are:

  • Needle users who share needles
  • Sharing razors or toothbrushes
  • Unprotected sex
  • Dental of health treatment in at risk countries
  • People who were treated with infected blood products
  • People who may have had tattoos or piercings in unregistered premises

The good news is that by having a simple blood spot test a local pharmacy people can find out if they have the virus and following an 8-12 week dose of medication (1 pill a day) the virus can be treated.

The SoCHCe team have been training pharmacists in Southampton to carry out the tests, and a member of the team can then meet the people testing positive for Hep-C and put them on a course of treatment which is more than 94% effective.

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