A new hepatitis test could be a game-changer in international healthcare facilities.
Investigations by the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI MUHC) found that point-of-care and rapid tests for hepatitis C are just as reliable as laboratory tests, which are typically the first choice for diagnosis.
The study, which was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, is set to change the way expatriate medical insurance customers and other people across the world are screened for the condition.
As a result, it could eventually impact the control and spread of the disease across the Earth.
While many developed countries utilise conventional lab testing, these are typically only available to individuals who have a symptomatology or risk profile that is believed to warrant screening.
This test is usually only available within specialised hospitals and community clinics and results take a week to process, although many individuals will only be told about the infection during their next visit to the healthcare centre.
As a result, these delays could cause patient follow-up levels to fall and can promote the transmission of the virus between people.
Senior study author Dr Nitika Pant Pai explained that rapid-test and point-of-care examinations of blood and oral fluids were found to have accuracy of between 97 and 99 per cent.
"With their quick turnaround time and convenience, we can now use these tests to screen many patients worldwide," she declared.
Dr Pant Pai, who is also an RI MUHC clinical researcher and assistant professor at McGill University's department of medicine, called these diagnostic tools "convenient, effective and informative for clinical decision making".
"These tests have the potential to be game changers on a global scale," she said, concluding: "It is now time to optimise their potential by integrating them in routine practice settings."
At least 170 million people have hepatitis C worldwide as a result of unsafe injections or blood transfusions, although the disease less commonly spreads through workplace exposure to body fluids or through unprotected sex.