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National hep C screening needed to reduce deaths from liver disease
  • By Marian Chu
  • Published 2018.06.20 17:49
  • Updated 2018.06.20 17:49
  • comments 0

A researcher from Severance Hospital recently published study results, which called for a mandatory, national hepatitis C antibody test to cut down the deaths related to liver disease.

Professor Kim Do-young

Professor Kim Do-young from the hospital’s Department of Gastroenterology presented the results at The Liver Week 2018 in Seoul Wednesday.

Kim said if the government fails to include hepatitis C antibody test into the national health checkup, it will lead to a large number of accumulated deaths by 2030.

Because hepatitis C does not have a preventive vaccine, early diagnosis and comprehensive maintenance are essential. An HCB antibody test is cheap and allows for diagnosis. The condition is treatable if the patient takes medication for eight to 12 weeks before it progresses to become a severe disease, Kim noted.

For these reasons, the World Health Organization has set to eradicate hepatitis C by 2030, he added.

Although there are around 300,000 patients with hepatitis C in Korea, only 15 to 23 percent of them, or 45,000 to 70,000 patients, are getting treatment, mainly because it does not show symptoms and is difficult to diagnose.

The number of deaths is expected to rise due to the lack of a mandatory hep C antibody test, according to the study.

Failure to include the test in national checkup will result in, by 2030, 18,829 non-affective cirrhosis-related deaths, 24,084 hepatocellular carcinoma-related deaths, 18,640 liver disease-related deaths, and 798 patients who need liver transplantation.

These accumulated numbers will sharply go down if the government includes a hepatitis C test in the national health checkup, the study said.

In particular, making hepatitis C screenings mandatory by 2018 would reduce the number of deaths from non-affective cirrhosis to 3,950, slashing mortality rate by nearly 80 percent, it said.

Deaths from hepatocellular carcinoma would also drop to 5,750 people, while liver disease-related deaths would fall to 4,679. The number of patients needing liver transplantation would also go down to 275, it added.

If the nation puts off its inclusion by one year to 2019, it will increase the number of deaths by 30 percent or 6,082. Implementing it in 2020 would result in 7,437 deaths, with accumulated deaths increasing each time the likely implementation date is delayed, the study found.

“This study confirms quickly implementing a national hepatitis C examination in Korea would not only increase the possibility of effectively lowering the disease burden on individuals and the society as a whole but also contribute to the eradication of hepatitis C according to WHO standards,” Professor Kim said.


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