Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education, Clinton, TN, United States.
Approximately 4.1 million Americans are estimated to have been infected with hepatitis C virus (HCV), 45-85% of whom are unaware of their infection. Persons who inject drugs (PWID) account for 55.8% of all persons with HCV antibody (anti-HCV) in the U.S. PWID have limited access to healthcare and are infrequently tested for anti-HCV using conventional laboratory assays.
To evaluate performance characteristics (sensitivity and specificity) of three, pre-market rapid point-of-care tests (one oral fluid and two finger-stick assays) from two manufacturers (Chembio and MedMira) in settings providing services to young adult PWID in San Diego, CA.
Behavioral risk assessment surveys and testing for HCV were conducted among persons who reported injection drug use (IDU) within the past 6 months as part of the Study to Assess Hepatitis C Risk (STAHR) among PWID aged 18-40 years in 2009-2010. Sensitivity and specificity of the rapid anti-HCV assays were evaluated among STAHR participants, using two commonly used testing algorithms.
Variability in sensitivity (76.6-97.1%) and specificity (99.0-100.0%) was found across assays. The highest sensitivity achieved for the Chembio finger-stick blood, Chembio oral fluid and MedMira finger-stick blood tests was 97.1%, 85.4% and 80.0% respectively; the highest specificity was 99.0%, 100.0% and 100.0%, respectively. In multivariate analysis false negative anti-HCV results were associated with female sex for the MedMira blood assay.
Sensitive anti-HCV rapid assays are appropriate and feasible for high-prevalence, high-risk populations such as young PWID.