Researchers from Imperial College London devised a low-cost blood test to diagnose hepatitis B in Africa’s developing regions.
According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, viral hepatitis proved fatal to around 1.45 million people worldwide, making it the seventh leading cause of death while hepatitis B virus infected around 250 million. The hepatitis B virus is transmitted through blood and other bodily fluids. It has no immediate symptoms, and remains undetected for several years until causing severe complications to liver. Some cases even lead to cancer. The sub-Saharan region is the most affected region, where around 80 million people are infected with hepatitis B. Now, researchers from Imperial College London developed a precise diagnostic method of inexpensive blood tests to identify the deadly hepatitis B virus. Two simple blood tests of measuring presence of antigens and enzymes produced by the liver respectively can accurately diagnose patients for treatment against hepatitis B. The method was efficient and accurate with a low expanse of $20 against $100-500 for current tests. Other methods such of liver biopsy require resources and laboratories that are hardly available in sub-Saharan Africa. The team used the data from hundreds of hepatitis B patients in The Gambia who were part of the Prevention of Liver Fibrosis and Cancer (PROLIFICA) in Africa to develop this new score. The research was published in the Journal of Hepatology on May 24, 2018 with tests validated from African patients in Senegal, Burkina Faso, Germany, France and the UK.
The new diagnostic test, called TREAT-B, accurately identify hepatitis B positive 88% cases with high sensitivity and 77% cases that needed no treatment. Moreover, the diagnosis method proved efficient at all stages of the disease. The researchers stated that the results need to be integrated into the WHO guidelines to implement it on regular basis.