Efforts to eliminate viral hepatitis in Europe will need to focus on people who inject drugs and prisoners if European Union nations are to achieve the World Health Organization target of elimination by 2030, a systematic review published this month in BMC Infectious Diseases suggests.
Elimination depends on screening, diagnosis, linkage to care and treatment, and on effective prevention measures in populations where the incidence of viral hepatitis is high. Elimination of hepatitis B requires a high coverage of vaccination in these populations.
For screening to be cost-effective in most countries it must be targeted to populations with a higher prevalence of viral hepatitis, so it is essential to know which groups to prioritise for screening.
Researchers from Rotterdam Public Health Service and Erasmus University, Rotterdam, carried out a systematic review of studies published between 2005 and 2015 to identify prevalence estimates for three key populations: people who inject drugs, prisoners, and men who have sex with men.
The review identified 68 prevalence estimates covering 23 countries in the European Union and European Economic Area. The studies estimated prevalence by measuring hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) or hepatitis C antibodies (which indicate exposure but are not diagnostic of chronic infection).