GCU researchers contribute to UK report on World Hepatitis Day

28 July 2017

Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) researchers have contributed to a major report from Public Health England, which found a recent fall in UK deaths from hepatitis C as a result of treatment from new direct-acting antiviral drugs.

The ‘Hepatitis C in the UK 2017 report: working to eliminate hepatitis C as a major public health threat’ was published today (July 28) on World Hepatitis Day.

In the UK, around 200,000 people have chronic infection with hepatitis C. However, last year’s report suggested the first fall in deaths from hepatitis C in more than a decade; a trend which has been sustained for a second year.

The newly available drugs offer a considerable advantage over previous treatments because their all-oral, shorter treatment durations, and improved side-effect profiles make them easier to roll out in community settings where it is easiest to reach many of those infected.

Injecting drug use continues to be the most important risk factor for infection with nearly 60% people who inject drugs thought to have been infected in Scotland.

GCU researchers Professor of Epidemiology and Population Health Sharon Hutchinson with Senior Research Fellows Dr Andrew McAuley and Dr Norah Palmateer are currently working on the Needle Exchange Surveillance Initiative, a significant analysis of people with hepatitis C and risk behaviours among people who inject drugs in Scotland.

The Needle Exchange Surveillance Initiative, a biennial survey since 2008, has already contributed important knowledge about an ongoing HIV outbreak in Glasgow, the emerging threat of legal high injecting, and the establishment of the first indicators for the Scottish Government’s Sexual Health and Blood Borne Virus Framework.

GCU was a host partner in the world’s first World Hepatitis Summit in Glasgow during September 2015, which set targets for eliminating viral hepatitis as a major public health threat by 2030.

The new report is the ninth Hepatitis C in the UK report and follows the WHO Global Health Sector Strategy (GHSS) on Viral Hepatitis 2016-2021 and the draft action plan for the health sector response to viral hepatitis in the WHO European region.

Professor Hutchinson said: “More needs to be done to improve prevention, to raise awareness, to increase testing and to get more people into treatment and care. As a University that is ranked in the top 20 in the UK for health research, GCU prides itself on its multidisciplinary and collaborative approach to addressing these challenges with our strategic national and international partners.”