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First HBV Quantitative Test in the US May Help Physicians Better Assess Patient Response to Treatment

Quest Diagnostics has just launched a new hepatitis B virus quantitative test that will allow physicians to more effectively monitor patient response to antiviral drugs and tailor treatment regimens.

Quest Diagnostics, a company dedicated to the development of a number of diagnostic services, has just announced that they will be launching a new test service—the first of its kind in the United States—that may make the lives of physicians everywhere a little bit easier.

The test service will help physicians assess patient response to drug therapies used to treat hepatitis B virus (HBV). With the assistance of this test, physicians will be able to “tailor more effective treatments” for each of their patients living with HBV, according to a recent press release.

The test that is currently widely used by physicians to diagnose patients with HBV is the HBsAg qualitative test. Quest cites a study that was published last year where researchers had pointed out that “HBsAg is essential to monitor the response to new therapeutic concepts.”

The new HBV surface antigen (sAg) quantitative test from Quest reportedly provides a more in-depth reading in that it is not only able to register the presence of the viral antigen; it can also measure the amount of the antigen in the blood. This means that the practitioner can see if the HBV-positive individual’s immune system is, in fact, responding to treatment.

Knowing this information could strengthen how physicians keep track of individualized patient response to antiviral drugs and may even allow physicians to make informed modifications to the treatment “to help minimize the likelihood of progression and reactivation.”

When speaking of the importance of this HBV quantitative test, Robert G. Gish, MD, medical director of the Hepatitis B Foundation and principal of Robert G. Gish Consultants, LLC, said, “The widespread availability of quantitative HBsAg testing through Quest for use by hepatologists, gastroenterologists, and other specialists will advance the care of HBV-infected patients. The ability to reliably quantify surface antigen will enhance clinicians’ ability to stage patient’s disease state, provide prognostic information and help guide care with current antivirals and new therapies that are in the development pipeline.”

With up to 2.2 million individuals living with HBV, it remains a major global health problem and, according to The Hepatitis B Foundation, it is actually the most common serious liver infection in the world. The virus is transmitted through bodily fluids such as blood or semen from an infected individual, and, according to the World Health Organization, it can persist outside of the body for at least a week.

What makes HBV particularly troublesome, and why the Hepatitis B Foundation refers to it as a “silent epidemic,” is that most of the individuals who are infected with the virus are unaware because they do not experience any telltale symptoms. “Thus, they can unknowingly spread the virus to others and continue the silent spread of hepatitis B.”

Furthermore, although there are treatment therapies available for HBV that can essentially “cure” the infection, physicians do not have many effective tools at their disposal that are especially helpful when it comes to predicting “individualized patient response to those treatments,” according to Rick L. Pesano, MD, PhD, vice president, research and development of Quest Diagnostics. With stronger monitoring abilities and tailored treatment plans, Dr. Pesano believes that physicians will be able to better “prevent progression and better their chance for long-term immunity.”