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A comparison of two biological markers of recent HCV infection: implications for the monitoring of interventions and strategies to reduce HCV transmission among people who inject drugs.
Eurosurveillance 2018; 23(47): doi: 10.2807/1560-7917.ES.2018.23.47.1700635
Hope VD, Harris RJ, Vickerman P, Plat L, Shute J, Cullen KJ, Ijaz S, Mandal S, Ncube F, Desai M, Parry JV.
Background: Monitoring hepatitis C virus (HCV) incidence is important for assessing intervention impact. Longitudinal studies of people who inject drugs (PWID), using repeated biological tests, are costly; alternatively, incidence can be estimated using biological markers of recent infection in cross-sectional studies. Aim: We aimed to compare incidence estimates obtained from two different biological markers of recent infection in a cross-sectional study to inform monitoring approaches for HCV elimination strategies. Method: Samples from an unlinked anonymous bio-behavioural survey of PWID were tested for two recent infection markers: HCV RNA with anti-HCV negative (‘RNA’) and low-avidity anti-HCV with HCV RNA present (‘avidity’). These two markers were used separately and in combination to estimate HCV incidence. Results: Between 2011 and 2013, 2,816 antiHIV-negative PWID (25% female) who had injected during the preceding year were either HCV-negative or had one of the two markers of recent infection: 57 (2.0%) had the RNA marker and 90 (3.2%) the avidity marker. The two markers had similar distributions of risk and demographic factors. Pooled estimated incidence was 12.3 per 100 person-years (pyrs) (95% credible interval: 8.8–17.0) and not significantly different to avidity-only (p=0.865) and RNA-only (p=0.691) estimates. However, the RNA marker is limited by its short duration before anti-HCV seroconversion and the avidity marker by uncertainty around its duration. Conclusion: Both markers have utility in monitoring HCV incidence among PWID. When HCV transmission is high, one marker may provide an accurate estimate of incidence; when it is low or decreasing, a combination may be required.