Los Angeles Times (06.20.2013)
The US Food and Drug Administration recently approved a diagnostic hepatitis test that can determine the genotype of a patient’s hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection. This information is important for treatment as there is no vaccine for HCV, the most common blood-borne disease in the United States.
The test, called the Abott RealTime HCV Genotype II, uses a patient’s blood plasma or serum to identify the virus as genotype 1, 1a, 1b, 2, 3, 4, or 5. Each genotype responds to different drug treatment, so knowing the genotype will help clinicians decide on the specific treatment to use. According to Tony Marion, a University of Tennessee Health Science Center professor, 1a and 1b are the most common genotypes in the United States. He stated that they did not respond very well to interferon-based treatments and were the most aggressive and difficult to treat. Marion noted that the benefit of this test included avoiding side effects of drugs that were not really suited to treatment. Also, matching treatment to genotyping tests could reduce costs and eliminate “one-size-fits-all” treatment.
HCV infects approximately 3.2 million people in the United States and is the leading cause of transplants; 15,000 die annually from the disease. Untreated chronic infections may lead to liver cancer, severe liver damage, and liver failure.