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Hepatitis C rapid diagnostic test may be widely used

On Dec. 5, it was announced that a quick diagnostic test for hepatitis C, also known as HCV, has become the first to be prequalified by the World Health Organization. The WHO prequalifies tests that it finds to reach a certain standard in terms of safety and reliability. While there are other rapid HCV tests, they are expensive or poor quality. This test, developed by a company in South Korea, takes five to 20 minutes to return results on human blood, serum or plasma. The test can be done by someone with minimal training outside of a hospital facility with no electricity.

The test gives visual results after detecting HCV antibodies, so no special equipment is necessary to detect results either. However, it does not indicate whether an infection is current. That will require further testing.

The rapid test will nonetheless be a boon to people in middle- and lower-income countries where many are unaware of their HCV status. These countries also have more access to direct-acting antivirals, so they can take advantage of that access to begin treating people with HCV. The WHO prequalification means that United Nations agencies can acquire the test.

Unfortunately, even in countries where more sophisticated methods of testing for various conditions are more readily available, a missed diagnosis or misdiagnosis may occur. In some cases, this may be because a medical professional misinterprets test results or does not order needed tests based on a person's symptoms. This could cause a health setback for a patient that might be costly and even fatal. If a person or their loved one has been misdiagnosed or a health professional has failed to diagnose a serious condition, the person may want to consult an attorney about whether this could be a case of medical malpractice.

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