For more than a decade, an outbreak of hepatitis C virus has been
occurring among men who have sex with men (MSM) in Western Europe, North
America and Australia. Most of these men are HIV positive and HCV
appears to have been spread through sex. For details about how HCV is
spread, see this CATIE News story.
In 2009, researchers recruited 63 men between the ages of 35 and 47
years, all of whom were HIV positive but HCV negative. Most of the men
were taking potent combination anti-HIV therapy (commonly called ART or
HAART). Over a period of four years, the following events occurred.
Associate professor of hepatology Thomas Reiberger, MD, from the
University of Vienna, reviewed the findings of the Dutch scientists in
the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases. He noted that while
screening the blood samples of patients for HCV antibodies can be
useful, the findings from the Dutch work suggest that in some cases such
antibodies may not appear for several months after HCV infection has
occurred. In such cases, acute HCV infection might be missed if antibody
tests alone are used for screening. He agrees with the Dutch scientists
that RNA testing should be used to screen HCV infection.