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Egypt’s Road to Eliminating Hepatitis C Virus Infection - A Story of Success

With one of the highest prevalence of hepatitis C (HCV) in the world, Egypt began a heroic journey to completely eliminate the disease by 2023. Through its Global Access Program, Roche worked with Egypt’s government officials and healthcare agencies to provide the country with robust and dependable HCV diagnostic solutions to help Egypt manage and achieve its ambitious goal.

 

Hepatitis C in Egypt – Past, Present, and Future

 

Egypt’s high rate of HCV cases stemmed from unsafe IV injection practices for the treatment of schistosomiasis, a disease caused by parasitic worms, from the 1950s to the 1980s.1,2 In 2015, it was estimated that 6.3% of the population was living with HCV.3 Faced with tremendous healthcare and economic burden, in 2006 Egypt’s Ministry of Health and Population (MOHP) created the National Committee for the Control of Viral Hepatitis (NCCVH) to help combat this vast epidemic.4

With assistance from the World Health Organization (WHO), U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and other stakeholders, the MOHP released the “Plan of Action for the Prevention, Care & Treatment of Viral Hepatitis, Egypt, 2014-2018” as a set of guidelines to battle HCV and other forms of hepatitis.4

 

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From 2014 to 2018, two million HCV patients were treated, but most of the infected were still undiagnosed. 

 

Therefore, the MOHP launched in 2018 the “Meet 100 Seha” or ‘’100 Million Healthy Lives’’ campaign, a massive nationwide initiative to screen Egypt’s adult population for HCV and provide appropriate treatment paid for by the country.1,5

From October 2018 to April 2019, almost 50 million people were screened for HCV antibodies from a target population of 62.5 million. Subsequently, individuals positive for HCV antibodies were confirmed by PCR testing and treated with antiviral therapy.1 As of July 2020, Egypt has screened more than 60 million people.6 These impressive results demonstrate what can be achieved through a nationwide HCV screening, monitoring, and treatment campaign by a country with extensive domestic and international collaboration.

Expanding Egypt’s Healthcare Reach for Hepatitis

 

With its current success in battling HCV, Egypt is now focusing on continued healthcare support, awareness, and education both locally and for its fellow African countries. 

In 2019, Egypt announced it would provide HCV screening and treatment for one million people across 14 countries in Africa.7 The country will supply technical assistance, expertise, and screening software as well as free treatment in those regions with a high prevalence of HCV. 

Additionally, Egypt has continued to promote awareness of its fight against hepatitis. To commemorate World Hepatitis Day 2020, Egypt’s Health and Population Minister commented that the country has made a “turning point” through improving its healthcare system with its "100 Million Healthy Lives" HCV screening campaign.6 And in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Egypt has remained diligent in providing healthcare services to patients suffering from HCV and HBV. The WHO has marked the theme for 2020 as a "Hepatitis-free future," focusing on HBV among mothers and newborns.

 

Roche’s partnership with Egypt

 

As Egypt’s road to eradicating HCV began, Roche was committed to supporting their efforts by providing diagnostic solutions on an unprecedented scale. Roche delivered and brought online, in six months, 23 fully-automated, high-throughput, molecular diagnostic solutions to Egyptian healthcare centers. Through global and local support, Roche personnel helped train healthcare providers to ensure that the screening programs were operated correctly and provided consistent results with every test. Roche is committed to providing continued support to the people of Egypt as they pursue the total elimination of the disease.

A unique characteristic of Roche’s diagnostic tools is that a single instrument can be used to detect multiple diseases. The systems can be utilized for blood screening, as well as to tackle other elimination programs such as HIV, HBV, Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB), human papillomavirus (HPV), and coronavirus.

Roche has been a trusted partner in providing reliable diagnostic solutions during the world's most challenging healthcare situations, such as the COVID-19 pandemic. Roche is able to provide hundreds of thousands of molecular tests quickly and efficiently when countries need them most. As an experienced leader in infectious disease, Roche is dedicated to delivering robust screening assays and instruments and helping each country build a sustainable healthcare infrastructure.

 

Increasing patient accessibility with reliable diagnostic solutions

 

Roche's robust diagnostic solutions used by Egypt were a suitable option for the country. Roche also offers other diagnostic tools that can ensure all patients, even those in hard-to-reach locations, can be reliably tested for viral diseases.

The company has developed an easy-to-use plasma sample collection method for HIV plasma viral load testing. About the size of a credit card, the device collects a small drop of blood from the finger that can then be easily transported for up to 28 days without refrigeration before being analyzed. This option is best for patients that are unable to access centralized testing locations and favorable in remote areas that experience conditions of extreme heat and humidity.

Increasing patient awareness and education campaigns to help decrease the stigma of being diagnosed with a disease is an area that Roche continues to support. Ensuring patient engagement will help guarantee patients receive the care they need and that clinic workflows remain uninterrupted.

Roche has developed a mobile tool that can report test results, educational content, and disease-management solutions directly to a patient’s cellular device. It offers treatment and appointment reminders, helping to ensure patient compliance. The platform is currently able to deliver viral load testing results for HIV-positive adults as well as results for Early Infant Diagnosis of HIV-exposed infants. It has also been recently updated to support the COVID-19 emergency response.

As countries consider support options for their elimination programs, this valuable disease-management mobile app is available to Ministries of Health or other healthcare organizations partnering with Roche’s Global Access Program.

 

Roche’s commitment to eliminating viral disease

 

Awareness through diagnostic testing is the key to any disease elimination program to be successful. Egypt’s HCV case study is an example of how Roche can be the right partner who will provide patient-focused, reliable, and long-standing service.

Besides Egypt, there is an increasing number of countries working towards eliminating HCV, including France, Iceland, Spain, and Switzerland.8 Egypt’s massive screening campaign and its partnership with Roche is a prime example of how other regions can take on this extraordinary task.

Roche has remained committed to the global fight against HCV and other infectious diseases through reliable screening solutions and will continue to serve as a trusted partner in building a sustainable healthcare system infrastructure in every region for disease prevention and management. 

References

1. Waked I. et al. N Engl J Med. 2020 Mar 19;382(12):1166-1174.

2. https://www.who.int/hepatitis/news-events/egypt-hepatitis-c-testing/en/. Accessed September 2020.

3. Ministry of Health and Population [Egypt], El-Zanaty and Associates [Egypt], ICF International. Egypt Health Issues Survey 2015. Cairo, Rockville, MD: Ministry of Health and Population, ICF International; 2015.

4. http://www.emro.who.int/images/stories/egypt/VH_Plan_of_Action_FINAL_PRINT1.pdf. Accessed September 2020.

5. https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/feature/2019/10/07/a-healthier-tomorrow-for-all-egyptians. Accessed September 2020.

6. https://www.sis.gov.eg/Story/150325/Health-min.-%27100-Million-Healthy-Lives%27-campaign-%27turning-point%27-in-Egypt%27s-healthcare-system?lang=en-us. Accessed September 2020.

7. https://www.afro.who.int/news/who-welcomes-egypts-support-14-african-countries-their-fight-against-hepatitis-c. Accessed September 2020.

8. https://cdafound.org/dashboard/polaris/maps.html. Accessed September 2020.