While Hepatitis C currently represents a serious contagious threat that infects 180 million people in world, by 2036 it may already be a rare disease, as suggested by researchers from the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health. The scientific team conducted an analysis with a computer-modeling methodology to predict the spread of the disease. Moreover, considering the factors and trends associated to the infection rates, that period of time may even be reduced by a decade.
Even though the disease currently kills 15,000 people every year in the United States alone, the prevalence of the disease is becoming rarer, and the rate of infection lower, as a consequence of treatment advances. “We compared the base case — the current trend — with the very ideal to show the range,” explained the study’s lead author, Mina Kabiri, a doctoral student in health services research and policy.
“There are new drugs and changes in physicians’ reactions to new drugs. It is pretty hard to pick a year between 2026 and 2036 because everything is changing so fast.” The researchers ran the model to produce fresh data and trends in order to compare the results with the older data available, in order to better understand what is going to happen from now on. However, Kabiri considers the possibility that, with very favorable conditions, the amount of time she defined may be shortened by one decade, to 2026.
“We picked an ideal scenario — one that really is ideal — that assumes that all unaware patients get screening once and everyone who is infected is treated,” she explained. “We wanted to show what would be the difference if you had the most optimal situation and illustrate how it changes the time before it would become a rare disease. It would be a 10-year difference.”
The lead author believes that the findings from the study can help policy makers define new strategies meant to establish more productive results, based on limited resources or the net impact of research investment. “Making hepatitis C a rare disease would be a tremendous life-saving accomplishment,” Kabiri said. “However, to do this we will need improved access to care and increased treatment capacity, primarily in the form of primary care physicians who can manage the care of infected people identified through increased screening.”
The researchers used a predictive model, which was developed in collaboration with the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, to conduct their analysis. The findings of the study, funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), were recently published at the Annals of Internal Medicine journal.