A rapid test, giving results in 20 minutes, is available for hepatitis C.
People undergoing diagnostic tests, including screening for viral infections, may sometimes face delays between having the test done and receiving the results. If the delay requires a repeated visit to a clinic or test site, some people fail to return for their results.
However, infection assessment technologies that can produce a rapid result that can then be quickly communicated by trained personnel to patients may be an attractive option. Not only do such tests reduce waiting time but patients with positive test results can, after counselling, be swiftly linked to the healthcare system for assessment, care and the offer of treatment.
Tests that are performed outside of a laboratory, such as in a doctor’s office or community health centre, are called point-of-care tests. A company called OraSure Technologies (Bethlehem, Pennsylvania) has developed a rapid oral fluid test for hepatitis C virus (HCV) antibodies called OraQuick. This test provides results in 20 minutes and was approved in the United States in 2010. Health Canada is assessing the data on this test in order to determine if it will be licensed.
Researchers in Wisconsin surveyed several hundred people who used a syringe and needle exchange program in urban and rural areas in that state about their attitudes toward rapid HCV testing. Among 413 participants who did not have a history of HCV infection and who responded to the survey, 85% were willing to undergo rapid HCV testing if it were made available. The results from the Wisconsin study underscore a high rate of acceptance of HCV rapid testing. If rapid HCV testing technology is approved in Canada, a similar survey should be done with key populations who could benefit from the use and availability of such tests.
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