Developing and Piloting a Standardized European Protocol for Hepatitis C Prevalence Surveys in the General Population (2016-2019)

Ida Sperle (Coresponding Author), SPHERE-C Expert Group, Anda Ķīvīte-Urtāne (Member of the Working Group)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Downloads (Pure)


Background: A robust estimate of the number of people with chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is essential for an appropriate public health response and for monitoring progress toward the WHO goal of eliminating viral hepatitis. Existing HCV prevalence studies in the European Union (EU)/European Economic Area (EEA) countries are heterogeneous and often of poor quality due to non-probability based sampling methods, small sample sizes and lack of standardization, leading to poor national representativeness. This project aimed to develop and pilot standardized protocols for undertaking nationally representative HCV prevalence surveys in the general adult population. Methods: From 2016 to 2019 a team from the Robert Koch-Institute contracted by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control synthesized evidence on existing HCV prevalence surveys and survey methodology and drafted a protocol. The methodological elements of the protocol were piloted and evaluated in Bulgaria, Finland and Italy, and lessons learnt from the pilots were integrated in the final protocol. An international multidisciplinary expert group was consulted regularly. Results: The protocol includes three alternative study approaches: a stand-alone survey; a "nested" survey within an existing health survey; and a retrospective testing survey approach. A decision algorithm advising which approach to use was developed. The protocol was piloted and finalized covering minimum and gold standards for all steps to be implemented from sampling, data protection and ethical issues, recruitment, specimen collection and laboratory testing options, staff training, data management and analysis and budget considerations. Through piloting, the survey approaches were effectively implemented to produce HCV prevalence estimates and the pilots highlighted the strengths and limitations of each approach and key lessons learnt were used to improve the protocol. Conclusions: An evidence-based protocol for undertaking HCV prevalence serosurveys in the general population reflecting the different needs, resources and epidemiological situations has been developed, effectively implemented and refined through piloting. This technical guidance supports EU/EEA countries in their efforts to estimate their national hepatitis C burden as part of monitoring progress toward the elimination targets.

Original languageEnglish
Article number568524
Number of pages12
JournalFrontiers in Public Health
Publication statusPublished - 28 May 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Adult
  • Bulgaria
  • Finland
  • Hepatitis C/epidemiology
  • Hepatitis C, Chronic/diagnosis
  • Humans
  • Italy
  • Prevalence
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Surveys and Questionnaires

Field of Science*

  • 3.3 Health sciences

Publication Type*

  • 1.1. Scientific article indexed in Web of Science and/or Scopus database


Dive into the research topics of 'Developing and Piloting a Standardized European Protocol for Hepatitis C Prevalence Surveys in the General Population (2016-2019)'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this