Approximately 2.5% of the Malaysian population is currently living with hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection. Yet, the public awareness of the disease is limited and under-screening remains a major challenge. With the support of international non-for-profit organizations, the Ministry of Health in Malaysia recently launched a one-week nationwide hepatitis C screening campaign in conjunction with the World Hepatitis Day. For the first time, the rapid diagnostic test (RDT) for HCV screening was introduced in public health institutions. This campaign involved 49 hospitals and 38 health clinics across the country, targeting the adult general population with unknown HCV infection status. Of the 11 382 participants undergoing the RDT, 1.9% were found to be positive for hepatitis C antibody (anti-HCV) and were referred to on-site medical departments or nearby hospitals for confirmatory testing and treatment. Men, the Malay ethnic group, intranasal and injection drug users and ex-prisoners were shown to have higher odds of being positive for anti-HCV. In addition to serving as a model to educate the general population about the disease, this campaign demonstrates the feasibility of decentralizing HCV screening, particularly by promoting the use of RDT, and linking the HCV-infected patients to care in Malaysia.
Asia has an intermediate-to-high prevalence of and high morbidity and mortality from hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection. Optimization of diagnosis and initiation of treatment is one of the crucial strategies for lowering disease burden in this region. Therefore, a panel of 24 experts from 10 Asian countries convened, and reviewed the literature, to develop consensus guidance on diagnosis and initiation of treatment of HBV infection in resource-limited Asian settings. The panel proposed 11 recommendations related to diagnosis, pre-treatment assessment, and indications of therapy of HBV infection, and management of HBV-infected patients with co-infections. In resource-limited Asian settings, testing for hepatitis B surface antigen may be considered as the primary test for diagnosis of HBV infection. Pre-treatment assessments should include tests for complete blood count, liver and renal function, hepatitis B e-antigen (HBeAg), anti-HBe, HBV DNA, co-infection markers and assessment of severity of liver disease. Noninvasive tests such as AST-to-platelet ratio index, fibrosis score 4 or transient elastography may be used as alternatives to liver biopsy for assessing disease severity. Considering the high burden of HBV infection in Asia, the panel adopted an aggressive approach, and recommended initiation of antiviral therapy in all HBV-infected, compensated or decompensated cirrhotic individuals with detectable HBV DNA levels, regardless of HBeAg status or alanine transaminase levels. The panel also developed a simple algorithm for guiding the initiation of treatment in noncirrhotic, HBV-infected individuals. The recommendations proposed herein, may help guide clinicians, to optimize the diagnosis and improvise the treatment rates for HBV infection in Asia.
There is a paucity of information on chronic hepatitis C (CHC) patients treated with direct antiviral agents (DAAs) in Asia. We invited Asia-Pacific physicians to collate databases of patients enrolled for CHC treatment, recording baseline clinical, virologic and biochemical characteristics, sustained virologic response at week 12 (SVR12) and virologic failure. SVR12 outcome was based on intention to treat (ITT). Multivariate analysis was used to assess independent risk factors for SVR12 using SPSS version 20. A total of 2171 patients from India (n = 977), Myanmar (n = 552), Pakistan (n = 406), Thailand (n = 139), Singapore (n = 72) and Malaysia (n = 25) were collected. At baseline, mean age was 49 years, 50.2% were males, and 41.8% had cirrhosis. Overall, SVR12 was 89.5% and by genotype (GT) based on ITT and treatment completion, respectively, was 91% and 92% for GT1, 100% and 100% for GT2, 91% and 97% for GT3, 64% and 95% for GT4, 87% and 87% for GT6 and 79% and 91% for GT untested. Patients with cirrhosis had SVR12 of 85% vs 93% for noncirrhosis (P < 0.001) (RR 2.1, 95% CI 1.4-3.1, P = 0.0002). Patients with GT1 and GT3 treated with sofosbuvir/ribavirin (SR) had 88% and 89% SVR12, respectively, but those GT6 treated with sofosbuvir/ledipasvir (SL) had only 77.6% SVR12. Multivariate analysis showed absence of cirrhosis was associated with higher SVR12 (OR 2.0, 95% CI 1.3-3.1, P = 0.002). In conclusion, patients with GT1 and GT3 with/without cirrhosis had surprisingly high efficacy using SR, suggesting that Asians may respond better to some DAAs. However, poor GT6 response to SL suggests this regimen is suboptimal for this genotype.
The hepatitis C virus (HCV) epidemic was forecasted through 2030 for 17 countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America and the Middle East, and interventions for achieving the Global Health Sector Strategy on viral hepatitis targets-"WHO Targets" (65% reduction in HCV-related deaths, 90% reduction in new infections and 90% of infections diagnosed by 2030) were considered. Scaling up treatment and diagnosis rates over time would be required to achieve these targets in all but one country, even with the introduction of high SVR therapies. The scenarios developed to achieve the WHO Targets in all countries studied assumed the implementation of national policies to prevent new infections and to diagnose current infections through screening.
Due to the introduction of newer, more efficacious treatment options, there is a pressing need for policy makers and public health officials to develop or adapt national hepatitis C virus (HCV) control strategies to the changing epidemiological landscape. To do so, detailed, country-specific data are needed to characterize the burden of chronic HCV infection. In this study of 17 countries, a literature review of published and unpublished data on HCV prevalence, viraemia, genotype, age and gender distribution, liver transplants and diagnosis and treatment rates was conducted, and inputs were validated by expert consensus in each country. Viraemic prevalence in this study ranged from 0.2% in Hong Kong to 2.4% in Taiwan, while the largest viraemic populations were in Nigeria (2 597 000 cases) and Taiwan (569 000 cases). Diagnosis, treatment and liver transplant rates varied widely across the countries included in this analysis, as did the availability of reliable data. Addressing data gaps will be critical for the development of future strategies to manage and minimize the disease burden of hepatitis C.
Factors influencing the morbidity and mortality associated with viremic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection change over time and place, making it difficult to compare reported estimates. Models were developed for 17 countries (Bahrain, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Colombia, Croatia, Dominican Republic, Ethiopia, Ghana, Hong Kong, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Morocco, Nigeria, Qatar and Taiwan) to quantify and characterize the viremic population as well as forecast the changes in the infected population and the corresponding disease burden from 2015 to 2030. Model inputs were agreed upon through expert consensus, and a standardized methodology was followed to allow for comparison across countries. The viremic prevalence is expected to remain constant or decline in all but four countries (Ethiopia, Ghana, Jordan and Oman); however, HCV-related morbidity and mortality will increase in all countries except Qatar and Taiwan. In Qatar, the high-treatment rate will contribute to a reduction in total cases and HCV-related morbidity by 2030. In the remaining countries, however, the current treatment paradigm will be insufficient to achieve large reductions in HCV-related morbidity and mortality.
Data on markers of hepatitis C virus (HCV) disease in HIV-HCV-coinfected patients in resource-limited settings are scarce. We assessed HCV RNA, HCV genotype (GT), IL28B GT and liver fibrosis (FibroScan® ) in 480 HIV-infected patients with positive HCV antibody in four HIV treatment centres in South-East Asia. We enrolled 165 (34.4%) patients in Jakarta, 158 (32.9%) in Bangkok, 110 (22.9%) in Hanoi and 47 (9.8%) in Kuala Lumpur. Overall, 426 (88.8%) were male, the median (IQR) age was 38.1 (34.7-42.5) years, 365 (76.0%) reported HCV exposure through injecting drug use, and 453 (94.4%) were on combination antiretroviral therapy. The median (IQR) CD4 count was 446 (325-614) cells/mm3 and 208 (94.1%) of 221 patients tested had HIV-1 RNA <400 copies/mL. A total of 412 (85.8%) had detectable HCV RNA, at a median (IQR) of 6.2 (5.4-6.6) log10 IU/mL. Among 380 patients with HCV GT, 223 (58.7%) had GT1, 97 (25.5%) had GT3, 43 (11.3%) had GT6, eight (2.1%) had GT4, two (0.5%) had GT2, and seven (1.8%) had indeterminate GT. Of 222 patients with IL28B testing, 189 (85.1%) had rs12979860 CC genotype, and 199 (89.6%) had rs8099917 TT genotype. Of 380 patients with FibroScan® , 143 (37.6%) had no/mild liver fibrosis (F0-F1), 83 (21.8%) had moderate fibrosis (F2), 74 (19.5%) had severe fibrosis (F3), and 79 (20.8%) had cirrhosis (F4). One patient (0.3%) had FibroScan® failure. In conclusion, a high proportion of HIV-HCV-coinfected patients had chronic HCV infection. HCV GT1 was predominant, and 62% of patients had liver disease warranting prompt treatment (≥F2).
Malaysia is a medium endemic country for hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection but little is known about HBV strains circulating in Malaysian blood donors. Viral load, HBsAg concentrations and nested PCR products from 84 HBV surface antigen (HBsAg) positive samples were analysed in detail. Median viral load was 3050 IU/mL and median HBsAg 1150 IU/mL. Fifty-six full genome, 20 pre-S/S, 1 S gene and six basic core promoter/precore-only sequences were obtained. Genotypes B and C were present at a ratio of 2:1, and two genotype D samples were obtained, both from donors of Indian background. Phylogenetically, genotype B was more diverse with subgenotypes B2-5, B7 and B8 present, while most genotype C strains were from subgenotype C1. Genotypes B and C were equally frequent in ethnic Malays, but 80% of strains from Chinese were genotype B. HBsAg concentrations were higher in genotype C than in genotype B, in Chinese than Malays and in donors under the age of 30. HBV vaccine escape substitutions (P120S/T, I126N and G145G) were present in six strains. In the large surface protein, immuno-inactive regions were more mutated than CD8 epitopes and the major hydrophilic region. Strains of genotype B or from ethnic Malays had higher genetic diversity than strains of genotype C or from Chinese donors. Hence HBV strains circulating in Malaysia are phylogenetically diverse reflecting the ethnic mix of its population. Ethnic Malays carry lower HBsAg levels and higher genetic diversity of the surface antigen, possibly resulting in more effective immune control of the infection.
Chronic hepatitis C is associated with increased morbidity and mortality in persons undergoing haemodialysis. This single-arm, open-label clinical trial investigated the safety and efficacy of an escalating dosage regimen of pegylated interferon (PEG-IFN) alpha-2b in this patient population. Patients with chronic hepatitis C who were undergoing haemodialysis began treatment with PEG-IFN alpha-2b at a dose of 0.5 microg/kg/week, which was increased every 4 weeks to a maximum of 1 microg/kg/week. Treatment duration was 24 weeks for patients with genotype (G) 2 or 3 infection and 48 weeks for patients with G1 infection. The primary end point was sustained virological response (SVR). Of 46 patients screened, 34 (G1: 70.6%; G3: 29.4%) were treated and 23 (67.6%) completed treatment. Overall, 85.3% of patients experienced early virological response, 52.9% experienced end-of-treatment response, and 50% attained SVR, with a trend toward higher SVR rates in G3 compared with G1 patients (80%vs 37.5%; P = 0.06). Anaemia was the main reason for discontinuation of treatment. Patients with chronic hepatitis C who are undergoing haemodialysis can be successfully treated with an escalating dosage regimen of PEG-IFN alpha-2b monotherapy. G3-infected patients can attain high rates of SVR with only 24 weeks of therapy.