An international research team has developed two inexpensive and simple blood tests to aid in the diagnosis of hepatitis B patients living in underprivileged African regions and are requiring treatment.
Researchers from Imperial College London, Medical Research Council Unit The Gambia at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, and the Pasteur Institute in Paris collaborated with additional African and European institutions to develop an accurate diagnostic score called TREAT-B.
The score comprises two blood tests for the precise identification of individuals who urgently need treatment for the hepatitis B virus infection.
One blood test is designed to detect the presence of antigens generated by the virus, while the second test measures enzymes produced by the liver in response to these antigens.
Upon evaluation, the researchers observed that the score is similar in accuracy to current approaches to identify patients requiring immediate treatment. It is said to cost $20.
Imperial College London Department of Surgery & Cancer researcher Dr Maud Lemoine said: “These results show that this simple and inexpensive test could be an accurate way to diagnose patients in need of hepatitis B treatment in countries with limited resources.
“This could potentially help diagnose and subsequently treat thousands of people across Africa.”
The TREAT-B score was developed using data from more than 800 hepatitis B patients under the PROLIFICA (Prevention of Liver Fibrosis and Cancer in Africa) study.
To validate the tests, the team used data from African patients in Senegal, Burkina Faso, Germany, France and the UK. The score was found to be 85% accurate in identifying HBV positive patients requiring treatment and 77% in detecting those who do not need treatment.
While the test is yet to be assessed in larger studies, it is expected to help thousands of patients who need life-saving treatment.
The researchers plan to further develop TREAT-B as a finger-prick test in order to enable faster results.