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NHS to use AI to identify people at higher risk of hepatitis C

The NHS is to use artificial intelligence to detect, screen and treat people at risk of hepatitis C under plans to eradicate the disease by 2030.

Hepatitis C often does not have any noticeable symptoms until the liver has been severely damaged, which means thousands of people are living with the infection – known as the silent killer – without realising it.

Left untreated, it can cause life-threatening damage to the liver over years. But with modern treatments now available, it is possible to cure the infection.

Now health chiefs are launching a hi-tech screening programme in England in a fresh drive to identify thousands of people unaware they have the virus.

The scheme, due to begin in the next few weeks, aims to help people living with hepatitis C get a life-saving diagnosis and access to treatment before it is too late.

The NHS will identify people who may have the virus by using AI to scan health records for a number of key risk factors, such as historical blood transfusions or an HIV diagnosis.

Anyone identified through the new screening process will be invited for a review by their GP and, if appropriate, further screening for hepatitis C. Those who test positive for the virus will be offered treatment available after NHS England struck a deal with three major pharmaceutical companies.

Prof Graham Foster, national clinical chair for NHS England’s hepatitis C elimination programmes, said the scheme “marks a significant step forward” in the fight to eliminate the virus before 2030. It will “use new software to identify and test patients most at risk from the virus – potentially saving thousands of lives”, he added.

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Source: The Guardian, 31 July 2022


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