An estimated people in the United States are newly diagnosed with Hepatitis C each year. With approximately people in the US already living with the virus, this presents a large healthcare burden to the global medical economy. Within this group, there is a proportion of people so often forgotten in the shuffle: injection drug users.
Researchers, doctors, and scientists have been working to for decades, but one of the biggest barriers faced is injection drug use. Sharing of needles and other supplies frequently transfers bodily fluids between people, which is how Hepatitis C virus is transmitted. And, just 7.7% of people who inject drugs are tested for Hepatitis C. This, among other challenges, such as the fact that people who inject drugs may face stigma and judgement when they seek out health care, makes tracking Hepatitis C difficult.
A examined the feasibility of using a method called to determine similarity of Hepatitis C virus strains between individuals. They found this is a feasible option that could provide epidemiologists with information such as how different strains in populations of people are related and where one newly infected person's strain of the virus may have originated.
While this doesn't completely solve the problem of track-treat-eradicate, it does help with the tracking portion, which has been severely lacking. tends to take a few days at minimum, and may require follow-up testing. Each step brings us closer to being able to treat and eradicate the disease, eliminating Hepatitis C virus from the globe, preventing the each year that it causes.