BACKGROUND: The recent downward revision of the estimated number of people living with chronic hepatitis C in Australia means that the annual number of new hepatitis C infections should also be revised. We aimed to estimate the annual number of new hepatitis C infections among people who inject drugs (PWID) in Australia in 2015, prior to the introduction of direct-acting antiviral treatment (DAA) for hepatitis C, as an updated baseline measure for assessing the impact of DAAs on hepatitis C incidence over the next 10 years. METHODS: A systematic review identified articles estimating hepatitis C incidence rates among PWID between 2002 and 2015. Reported incidence rates were adjusted to account for unrepresentative needle and syringe program (NSP) coverage among study participants compared with PWID overall. The total number of PWID in Australia and the hepatitis C RNA prevalence among PWID were taken from published estimates. The annual number of new infections was estimated by multiplying the pooled NSP-coverage-adjusted incidence rate by the number of susceptible PWID in 2015. RESULTS: Five studies were included, with unadjusted incidence rates ranging from 7.6-12.8 per 100 person-years. The overall pooled incidence rate (after adjusting for NSP coverage) was 9.9 per 100 person-years (95% CI: 8.3-11.8). This led to an estimate of 4,126 (range 2,499-6,405) new hepatitis C infections in 2015. CONCLUSIONS: Our updated estimate provides an important baseline for evaluating the impact of hepatitis C elimination efforts and can be used to validate outcomes of future modelling studies.
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