Raymond Chung, MD, director of the Massachusetts General Hospital Hepatitis C Clinic, answers questions about the cause of and treatments for hepatitis C.

What is hepatitis C?

Hepatitis C is a liver disease caused by a blood-borne virus. It is the leading reason for liver transplantation, and a condition at high risk for progression to cirrhosis and liver cancer.

How is it diagnosed?

Hepatitis C is diagnosed through a number of tests including blood tests, imaging tests and liver biopsy.

Am I contagious?

Unless there is active exposure to your infected blood, you have a very low likelihood of transmitting infection to loved ones, family members and friends.

Who should be screened for hepatitis C?

In late 2012, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) will issue recommendations for important changes in screening practices for hepatitis C. All persons born between 1945 and 1965 will be invited for a one-time office screen. This method has been demonstrated to be more likely to identify the many people with chronic hepatitis C who have it, but do not yet know it. With marked advances in treatment success, caseidentificationis more important than ever.

How is hepatitis C treated?

Hepatitis C is usually treated with antiviral medication aimed at removing the virus from the body. Specific medication is recommended based on the type of virus in each patient. Treatment for genotype 1 hepatitis C involves a combination of peginterferon, ribavirin and either telaprevir or boceprevir. Treatment for genotypes 2 or 3 hepatitis C involves a combination of peginterferon and ribavirin.

How do I get into a clinical trial that avoids interferon?

Please contact Raymond Chung, MD, director of the Hepatitis C Clinic, atrtchung@partners.org or 617-724-6006.

If I enroll in such a clinical trial, will I get placebo?

It is highly unlikely that you will get a placebo. The current phase two trials are each administering active drug combinations rather than placebos.

Other Resources about Hepatitis C