GCU researchers conduct Europe-wide hepatitis testing analysis

09 December 2015

GCU researchers are conducting an EU-wide assessment of hepatitis testing

GCU researchers are conducting an EU-wide assessment of hepatitis testing

Researchers at Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) are conducting a Europe-wide assessment of hepatitis B, C and E monitoring and testing activities, and the need for new European guidance on testing to be produced by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).

Led by Dr Esther Aspinall, working with colleagues at Health Protection Scotland, the team will conduct a nine-month study examining existing policy and practice on hepatitis B and C testing in Europe, and surveillance activities for hepatitis E.

The project spans the 28 EU member states, plus non-EU EEA countries Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.

One of the top 10 causes of global death, costing 1.4 million lives every year, there are more than 400 million people chronically infected with hepatitis B and C worldwide (World Health Organization).

There are concerns that there is a considerable burden of undiagnosed infection across Europe, including an estimated 42% of those with hepatitis C in Scotland.

In recent reports, the ECDC has highlighted a lack of information on testing practice for hepatitis B among people who inject drugs, and on testing practice for hepatitis B and C among migrants and men who have sex with men.

In order to develop guidance on testing for hepatitis B and C in the EU and to explore the epidemiology of hepatitis E so as to provide baseline surveillance information, the research team will provide two summary reports for the ECDC. The team will survey key stakeholders, including policy makers and members of civil society in EU/EEA states.

Dr Aspinall said: “Hepatitis E has historically been a disease of low-income countries but is now an emerging issue in high-income countries, with risk factors and monitoring of current surveillance activities for hepatitis E still unclear. We will also provide a gap analysis of existing guidelines on hepatitis B and C and look at on-the-ground testing activities to enable ECDC to assess the need for EU-wide guidance on testing and screening.”

Dr Aspinall has extensive experience of health services research and evaluation, policy and strategy review and development, and data synthesis and analysis. She was an advisor to the development of the World Health Organization Guidelines on the Treatment and Care of Hepatitis C.

The Scottish Government has led the world in its structured response to hepatitis C, launching its £43m Hepatitis C Action Plan in 2008, and its Sexual Health and Blood Borne Virus Framework in 2011, updated in September 2015, to which GCU researchers Professor Sharon Hutchinson and Professor David Goldberg contributed significantly.

At the first ever World Hepatitis Summit, held in Glasgow in September 2015, in which GCU was a supporting partner, a new declaration on viral hepatitis, supported by leaders from 98 countries, called on governments to develop and implement comprehensive, funded national hepatitis plans, and to agree on realistic yet aspirational global targets for the prevention and treatment of hepatitis B and C.