How can hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection be prevented?

Updated: Oct 07, 2019
  • Author: Vinod K Dhawan, MD, FACP, FRCPC, FIDSA; Chief Editor: BS Anand, MD  more...
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Currently, no products are available to prevent hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection. The development of immunoprophylaxis for this disease is proving difficult; an effective neutralizing immune response has not been demonstrated.

Patients with hepatitis C should be advised to abstain from alcohol use; they should also be advised to use barrier protection during sexual intercourse. Screening high-risk patients and initiating appropriate treatment may decrease the prevalence of cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC).

In an ongoing prospective study of prevention of HCV infection in injection-drug users, researchers recommended six measures that can be used to prevent the spread of hepatitis C [140, 141] :

  • Reducing risk from shared ancillary drug preparation equipment, such as containers, rinse water, and filters, in addition to shared syringes

  • Using a new rapid test at the point of care that offers results in 20 minutes; it can detect infection before seroconversion occurs and, combined with counseling, can help to stem transmission

  • Addressing social and relational contexts of injecting can encourage uninfected individuals to take precautions when injecting drugs with infected sex partners

  • Encouraging "taking a break" from injecting drugs

  • Developing models to guide delivery of new prevention strategies, including already-available approaches such as increasing syringe availability and future strategies such as direct-acting antivirals that can be used prophylactically, as well as vaccines

  • Combining interventions in synergistic ways, such as needle exchange and methadone maintenance programs

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends offering and providing access to opioid substitution therapy to all opioid-dependent individuals from key populations. [50]

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