Innovative new NNUH Hepatitis C test is first of its kind in UK
This month members of the Microbiology department at NNUH will officially unveil a cutting edge new Hepatitis C testing machine, not currently used anywhere else in the United Kingdom which will transform patient care.
The new diagnostic approach could dramatically change the way patients persistently infected with the Hepatitis C virus are treated in the future, and marks the culmination of years of research and development.
The new test employs a DNA analysis method known as ‘Next Generation Sequencing’ (NGS) to provide an accurate picture of the genetic material (genotype) present within the Hepatitis C virus, but in addition to that also identifies the amino acids which are responsible for the resistance to treatment (known as resistance associated mutations). This means that virologists working at the Microbiology Department will now be able to identify whether or not a patient’s particular strand of virus is resistant to certain treatment methods before treatment begins, allowing patients to receive a more targeted treatment from the very start of their care.
Currently a patient being tested for Hepatitis C has their samples sent by NNUH Microbiology to external laboratories for further testing. One external lab provides results for genotype, another identifies the resistance levels, which then informs how that patient is treated going forward.
The new high-tech equipment at the hospital will provide fast and reliable results for both genotype and resistance profile and a correct course of treatment can be established more quickly without having to rely on external testing centres. Consultant Virologist, Dr Samir Dervisevic – who has been instrumental in the development of the test over the last three years – said: “This is a huge step forwards, we’re talking about technology which is fit for the 21st century. We now have the ability to sequence the key areas of the Hepatitis C virus genome in an NHS department, and possess the expertise right here in Norwich which means we no longer have to rely on the national reference laboratories elsewhere, the advantages for the trust and for patients are enormous.”