The key to survival for someone who contracts Hepatitis C is early detection. That makes timely testing crucial to helping curb this disease. Well here’s some good news! New research has shown that on site rapid response testing is just as accurate as having blood sent away to the lab. The McGill University Health Centre is where this study was done. What does this mean for Hep C screening?

Now that the study has been published in The Annals of Internal Medicine, medical facilities around the world will likely begin using this just as an effective, far more efficient testing method. The result may be fewer cases of Hepatitis C on a global scale, since individuals will discover they have the disease sooner. This can lead to slowing the spread.

Dr. Nitika Pant Pai, one of the researchers involved in the testing, says that rapid testing done at medical facilities is 97 to 99 percent accurate. Convenience will mean more will get tested, and those who do will get immediate results. The tests involve blood and oral elements.

This will be particularly important in developing countries where lab work is not available to everyone. Usually in these places a person must be high-risk or showing significant symptoms of the disease before testing can be done. Results only take one week, but the results are usually given to the patient during a follow-up visit. which may be months later. In the meantime, the patient may pass the disease on to others without knowing, resulting in potential community outbreaks.

30 minutes is all these new point-of-care tests require. The patient can sit in the waiting room and get results. Even medical facilities in areas without electricity will be able to perform these simple and accurate tests. Because no specialized equipment is needed, it will be accessible to a maximum number of people, even those forced to go to facilities in poorer areas.

People across the globe have been infected with Hepatitis C by means of unsafe blood transfusions as well as dirty needles (whether for illicit drug use of legitimate purposes). The figures now stand at over 170 million people infected with figures continuing to rise especially in Asia and Africa where testing and treatment are more limited. Some are optimistic that this new simple testing procedure along with oral treatments may be able to turn the tide against Hepatitis C.

Several professors at McGill University and McGill Medical School joined forces with several professors from the UK to research and analyze the results of these tests.