Elimination of hepatitis C worldwide is more feasible if micro-elimination screening strategies are adopted. We aimed to screen hepatitis C virus (HCV) in specific high-risk populations in certain sub-regions of Romania and link them to antiviral treatment.
A multicenter prospective study was conducted among the hospitalized or ambulatory adult patients from March 2019 to March 2020 in more than 20 medical institutions from 4 Romanian cities (Bucharest, Iasi, Timisoara, Cluj-Napoca). A rapid diagnostic test for HCV diagnosis was performed to all admitted patients and the positive ones were sent to gastroenterology departments for confirming the active infection, staging and treatment prescription.
In total, 25,141 subjects signed the informed consent and were consequently enrolled into the study. The prevalence of anti-HCV antibodies was 1.39% (95%CI: 1.25-1.54) and increased with the number of risk factors presented by one subject. There was a positive association between the presence of anti-HCV antibodies and female gender (p<0.001), rural area of residence (p<0.001), advanced age (p<0.001), as well as a negative association with the education level (p<0.001).
In a hospital-based screening micro-elimination program in Romania, HCV prevalence was lower than previously reported. This is a first step towards a cost-effective screening in a well-defined group of persons at risk and provides sufficient capacity to deliver access to HCV treatment and linkage to care in Romania.