Quest Diagnostics has launched a new obstetrics laboratory test panel for screening eligible pregnant people for hepatitis C (HCV) alongside other standard laboratory tests.

The new test panel has been developed to include HCV antibody testing, based on data obtained from the company’s Health Trends study.

In the study, which was published in Obstetrics & Gynecology in June, laboratory testing of more than five million pregnant individuals revealed that less than 41% were screened for HCV last year.

Individuals with Medicaid health insurance were also found to be screened at rates of 25% to 35% less than those with commercial insurance.

The company stated that obstetric tests are usually performed during early pregnancy and typically include guideline-recommended tests such as hepatitis B, rubella, syphilis, complete blood count (CBC) and blood type.

HCV infections have increased in pregnant people and other populations in the US in recent years, mainly due to increased use of intravenous drugs.

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HCV is the most common bloodborne infection in the country and is also said to be a leading cause of liver-related morbidity and mortality.

In recent years, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, US Preventative Services Task Force and Society of Maternal-Foetal Medicine have issued practice guidance recommending one-time screening of HCV during pregnancy.

Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued guidance recommending screening for HCV for all pregnant people, excluding areas where prevalence is less than 0.1%.

Quest Diagnostics Women’s Health senior medical director Damian Pat Alagia said: “Our Health Trends research revealed that despite guidelines recommending HCV screening in pregnancy, many people are not receiving the testing they need. Individuals in underserved communities are most likely to experience this gap in care.

“Screening for HIV, HBV and syphilis is already standard in obstetric panels, and it is no coincidence that screening rates for these diseases during pregnancy are more than double the current rate as for HCV.

“By adding HCV screening to our obstetrics panel, physicians will be more likely to deliver guideline-based care that reduces HCV infection during pregnancy and fosters a positive outcome for the patient and their newborn.”

In January, the company introduced an at-home Covid-19 rapid antigen test service through its consumer-initiated testing platform, QuestDirect.