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Estimating chronic hepatitis C prevalence in British Columbia and Ontario, Canada using population-based cohort studies

Hamadeh A, Haines A, Feng Z, Thein H, Janjua NZ, Krahn M, Wong WWL. J Viral Hepatitis. 2020; Aug 18 [Epub ahead of print].

Patients identified as having chronic hepatitis C (CHC) infection can be effectively and rapidly treated using direct-acting antiviral agents. However, there remains a substantial burden of subclinical undetected infection. This study estimates the prevalence and undiagnosed proportion of CHC in British Columbia (BC) and Ontario, Canada using a model-based approach, informed by provincial population-level health administrative data. A two-step approach was used: Step 1) Two population-based retrospective analyses of administrative health data for a cohort of British Columbians and a cohort of Ontarians with CHC were conducted to generate population-level statistics of CHC-related health events; Step 2) using a validated natural history model of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection and back-calculated the historical prevalence of CHC from the data collected in Step 1. Our retrospective study found that, in BC and Ontario, the number of newly diagnosed CHC cases is declining yearly while the complications of the disease are increasing yearly. BC had a 2014 CHC prevalence of 1.04% (95% CI: 0.84%-1.44%), with 33.3% (95% CI: 25.5%-42.0%) of CHC cases undiagnosed. Ontario had a 2014 CHC prevalence of 0.91% (95% CI: 0.83%-1.02%) with 36.0% (95% CI: 31.2%-38.9%) of CHC cases undiagnosed. Our study offers robust estimates based on the integration of a validated natural history model with population-level health administrative data on HCV-related events, which can provide vital evidence for policy-makers to develop appropriate policies to achieve the elimination targets. Our approach can also be applied and used to produce robust region-specific estimates in other countries.