Global health project wins Gilead grant to help eliminate viral hepatitis in Kenya

Monday, March 4, 2019

A new project led by Brandon Guthrie, assistant professor of global health and epidemiology at the University of Washington School of Public Health, has received a two-year, $350,000 grant from Gilead Sciences to help achieve micro-elimination of hepatitis C in parts of Kenya.

Micro-elimination focuses on breaking down national and international elimination goals into smaller goals that are relevant for defined populations. In an effort to support micro-elimination efforts, the Gilead Medical Affairs team has funded up to 30 projects around the world.

“We believe rapid action is needed to prevent and treat hepatitis C virus among persons who inject drugs in Kenya, particularly those co-infected with HIV,” said Guthrie, who is also an alum of the School. “The hepatitis C virus is a major threat to the health of this highly vulnerable and marginalized population, and can spread explosively without intervention.”

Chronic hepatitis C infection is a leading cause of liver failure and liver cancer worldwide.

In a previous study in Kenya, Guthrie and his research team found that 65 percent of HIV-infected injection drug users were also infected with the hepatitis C virus. This new Gilead-funded project, in collaboration with the Kenyan Ministry of Health, will allow the team to study the impact of antiviral treatment on up to 500 of these HIV- and hepatitis C-infected drug users and their partners. 

The overall goal of the study is to optimize treatment programs to achieve micro-elimination of hepatitis C virus in Kenyan communities with concentrated epidemics and to build on HIV care infrastructure.

The UW research team includes investigators from the Department of Global Health, which bridges the schools of Public Health and Medicine, and UW Medicine. They are Carey Farquhar, professor of epidemiology, global health and allergy and infectious disease; John Scott, associate professor of allergy and infectious diseases; and Anna Monroe-Wise, acting assistant professor of global health and general internal medicine.