Researchers using a computer model say that hepatitis C could become "rare" — affecting no more than 1 in 1,500 people — in the United States by 2036.
Right now, roughly 1 in 100 people have hepatitis C in the U.S., but newer medicines and expanded screenings for adults born between 1945 and 1965 could make the number drop. A study conducted by Jagpreet Chhatwal of The University of Texas MC Anderson Cancer Center in Houston and colleagues modeled the effect the medicines and screenings will have on hepatitis C, and found that it would become rare by 2036, and could even reach that goal by 2026 if there were stricter guidelines for screenings.
The researchers wrote in Annals of Internal Medicine that the screening regimen now would identify close to 487,000 cases of hepatitis C infection within the next 10 years, and using current conditions, 124,200 cases of liver cirrhosis, 78,800 cases of liver cancer, 126,500 liver-related deaths, and 9,900 liver transplants could be prevented by 2050.
"We were pleasantly surprised that in the next 22 years we could make this a rare disease," Chhatwal told Reuters.
Hepatitis C is a viral infection of the liver that, if left untreated, can lead to liver damage, liver failure, and cancer. The researchers say it costs $6.5 billion a year to care for the 3.2 million people in the United States with hepatitis C.