Quest Diagnostics awarded CDC contract to research and better understand hepatitis C

Secaucus-based Quest Diagnostics on Thursday said it was awarded a contract by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention designed to assess the burden of hepatitis C virus in the U.S.

The agreement marks a new phase of a decadelong collaboration between Quest and the CDC to improve hepatitis public health research based on insights from laboratory data. Under the new agreement, Quest will perform both HCV antibody testing and molecular RNA testing using HIPAA-deidentified “remnant” specimens randomly selected from clinical test specimens. The goal is to gain a better understanding of the burden of hepatitis C infection in the U.S.

Quest is a leading provider of hepatitis testing services, with a comprehensive test menu of hepatitis screening and monitoring assays. In addition, Quest has the largest private laboratory database, with more than 60 billion data points. The company routinely develops research, called Quest Diagnostics Health Trends, based on this data, with the CDC and academic experts.

“The longstanding collaboration between Quest and the CDC shows the power of strategic public-private collaborations to inform public health strategy in critical health areas,” Dr. Harvey Kaufman, medical director and head of the Quest Diagnostics Health Trends research program, said. “Our prior work together with the CDC has shown substantial opportunity to improve care and treatment for individuals with hepatitis C, and we expect this additional research collaboration to build on that progress, informing public policy to reduce the incidence of hepatitis C in the United States.”

Prior agreements between Quest and the CDC involved analysis of laboratory results from tests ordered by health care providers for patients with suspected hepatitis infection. In 2013, the two organizations formed an agreement to jointly analyze deidentified hepatitis C testing data for baby boomers, individuals born from 1945 through 1965. Since 2012, Quest has supported the CDC to advance public health by providing deidentified laboratory results for hepatitis A, B, C and E. All shared laboratory test results are deidentified and HIPAA-compliant.

Approximately 2 million Americans are infected with hepatitis C, but most are unaware they have it. Left untreated, the disease can progress to advanced stages, including liver cancer and death. Laboratory testing can identify infection in early stages, when treatment may be curative. In 2020, the CDC recommended one-time hepatitis C testing for all individuals ages 18 years of age or older, and that all pregnant women be tested for HCV during each pregnancy. CDC also recommends routine periodic testing for people with risk factors.