BMJ Open (Jul 2021)
Village-to-village screening for hepatitis B and C using quantitative HBsAg and anti-HCV testing with reflex HCV core antigen tests in the remote communities of a resource-rich setting: a population-based prospective cohort study
Objectives Community-based screening for hepatitis B virus (HBV) and hepatitis C virus (HCV) is essential for hepatitis elimination. This study attempted to increase screening accessibility and efficacy by using alternative tools.Design Population-based prospective cohort study.Setting Hepatitis elimination program at Yunlin County, Taiwan.Participants All 4552 individuals participated in 60 screening sessions of a community-based HBV and HCV screening project in five rural townships with approximately 95 000 inhabitants in central-western Taiwan.Interventions To increase accessibility, 60 outreach screening sessions were conducted in 41 disseminative sites. Quantitative HBV surface antigen (qHBsAg) and anti-HCV testing with reflex HCV core antigen (HCV Ag) tests were employed as alternative screening tools.Main outcome measures Calculate village-specific prevalence of HBsAg, anti-HCV and HCV Ag and establish patient allocation strategies according to levels of qHBsAg HCV Ag and alanine aminotransferase (ALT).Results Of 4552 participants, 553, 697 and 290 were positive for HBsAg, anti-HCV and HCV Ag, respectively; 75 of them had both HBsAg and anti-HCV positivity. The average (range) number of participants in each screening session was 98 (31–150). The prevalence rates (range) of HBsAg, anti-HCV and HCV Ag were 12.1% (4.3%–19.4%), 15.3% (2.6%–52.3%) and 6.4% (0%–30.2%), respectively. The HCV Ag positivity rate among anti-HCV-positive participants was 42% (0%–100%). Using cut-off values of >200 IU/mL for qHBsAg, >3 fmol/L for HCV Ag and >40 IU/mL for ALT as criteria for patient referral, we noted an 80.2% reduction in referral burden. Three villages had high anti-HCV prevalences of 52.3%, 53.8% and 63.4% with corresponding viraemic prevalences of 23.2%, 30.1% and 22% and thus constituted newly identified HCV-hyperendemic villages.Conclusion Outreach hepatitis screening increases accessibility for residents in rural communities. Screening HBV and HCV through qHBsAg and HCV Ag tests provides information concerning viral activities, which might be conducive to precise patient allocation in remote communities.