A gloved hand holding a vial of blood with Hepatitis C printed on the label
Monday, April 15, 2024

Canada likely to miss WHO's Hepatitis C elimination target, research shows

Waterloo researcher discovers that more harm reduction treatments are needed to eliminate Hep C by 2030

Canada will not reach the original World Health Organization's (WHO) target of eliminating the Hepatitis C virus (HCV) by 2030 and lags in comparison to other developed countries, a new study led by researchers at the University of Waterloo has found.

HCV is an infection that poses a major public health threat that affects an estimated 250,000 Canadians – despite having a highly effective medication. When gone unscreened, HCV is a highly debilitating infection that causes liver failure and could lead to death. Due to its asymptomatic nature, it is also known as a silent killer to those infected with the virus. The infection typically spreads through contact with an infected person's blood, most commonly through needle sharing.

"There is no model in Canada to track the elimination process," said Dr. William W.L. Wong, associate professor at Waterloo's School of Pharmacy.

Wong, the study's lead author and newly appointed 2024 Applied Public Health Chair, added: "We are not likely to reach the WHO goal of eliminating HCV by 2030 if screening and treatment are the only focus for policymakers. We need to screen for the disease earlier and encourage harm-reduction strategies be put in place. If patients do not change high-risk behaviours, such as sharing needles, HCV re-infection can be high even after they were cured the first time."

Wong used a novel mathematical modelling system to help determine how Canada's progress would fare to eradicate HCV. Based on Wong's model, reaching the WHO goals by 2030 will be impossible if the current status quo treatment and screening policies don't change.

Read more on Waterloo News.