"Hepatitis C is particularly dangerous because it is a silent killer. It can live for decades in a person's body, slowly destroying the liver, while causing few symptoms," said Dr. John Ward, director of the CDC's division of viral hepatitis.
The new guidelines are expected to identify more than 800,000 infections, prevent 100,000 cases of cirrhosis, prevent more than 50,000 cases of liver cancer, and save more than 120,000 lives. Hepatitis C is the leading cause of liver transplants in the United States.
The relatively inexpensive blood test is "a small investment now for a big benefit later", said Ward.
The CDC believes routine blood tests will address the largely preventable consequences of the disease, especially in light of newly available therapies that can cure around 75 percent of infections.
The field has attracted broad interest with two new hepatitis C drugs, Incivek from Vertex Pharmaceuticals Inc and Merck & Co's Victrelis, reaching the U.S. market in the past year.
Companies including Gilead Sciences Inc aim to improve on those medicines with pill-only regimens. One such program at Bristol-Myers Squibb suffered a setback earlier this month when a key trial was stopped after a patient developed heart failure.
U.S. regulators on Thursday put a hold on testing of an experimental hepatitis C drug being developed by Idenix Pharmaceuticals Inc, citing safety concerns.
Intellpuke: You can read this article by Reuters Correspondent Deena Beasley in context here: www.msnbc.msn.com/id/48691720/ns/health-infectious_diseases/?