Researchers in South Central Indiana are hoping a pilot program will provide a new way to identify potential cases of Hepatitis C.
Indiana University’s School of Public Health, along with Centerstone, a nonprofit specializing in behavioral health, is teaming up to administer screening questionnaires and blood tests in hopes of finding out whether questionnaire answers can predict incidences of the virus.
The screening tests are targeting at-risk populations who otherwise may not discover the infection until it’s too late.
Centerstone research director John Putz says Hepatitis C recently surpassed HIV AIDS as the chronic virus infection leading to the most deaths in the United States.
“It’s great that we have this wonderful, new treatment regime for Hepatitis C, that in 90 percent of cases can eradicate the virus for people, but that doesn’t help if you don’t get the right people into treatment or people don’t know they have the disease,” says Putz.
Screening questions include patients’ history of drug use, blood transfusions and service in the military.
Dr. Jon Macy of IU’s School of Public Health says the study also demonstrates the importance of collaboration in the public health sphere, when it comes to solving problems in high-risk populations.
“It’s not just IU and Centerstone, it’s also the hospital who’s doing the testing, it’s physicians in the community that we would refer positive clients to get treatment for Hepatitis C,” Macy says.
Putz says his goal is to continue patient enrollment through the fall and then begin data analysis.