Hepatitis C research in B.C. given $5M boost

A new study will look at ways to reduce the incidence of hepatitis C infections in B.C.

Study will look for ways to reduce new infections in the province

A new study will investigate how to reduce rates of hepatitis C infections in B.C. (Stock image)

A new study looking at ways to reduce the incidence of hepatitis C infections across the province will be launched following funding of $5 million from the B.C. government.

The study, which will be led by Dr. Julio Montaner,  director of  the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS (BCCFE), was announced Thursday morning by Health Minister Terry Lake.

"This initiative offers a unique opportunity to potentially curb the rapidly rising toll of hepatitis C in North America," Montaner said.

A collaboration between the BCCFE, B.C. Centre for Disease Control, Vancouver Coastal Health, St. Paul's Hospital Foundation and University of British Columbia, the study will focus on patients in Vancouver who have been successfully cured of hepatitis C, but are identified as at high risk of re-infection.

By evaluating treatment options, harm reduction and support services currently offered through Vancouver Coastal Health, the team hopes to identify the next steps in improving outcomes for patients.

Hepatitis C currently affects an estimated 50,000 to 60,000 British Columbians and can be life-threatening.

Although cure rates are above 95 per cent, those identified as high risk for re-infection — intravenous drug users, sex workers, men who have sex with men — may require more support in harm reduction practices.

The disease is the highest cause of premature death among reportable infectious diseases in North America, and is the most frequent cause of premature death among people living with both hepatitis C and HIV.