Quest Diagnostics has introduced a new obstetrics laboratory test panel, which enables screening of eligible pregnant women for hepatitis C (HCV), along with other lab tests.

The US-based medical diagnostics company developed the new test panel to include HCV antibody testing, based on results from its Health Trends study.

In the clinical study, the company carried out laboratory testing in more than 5 million pregnant patients, in which less than 41% of pregnant people were screened for HCV.

The study found that the rate of screening in individuals with Medicaid health insurance is 25-35% less compared to those with commercial insurance.

Quest Diagnostics senior medical director, and Health Trends research program head Harvey W Kaufman said: “Our new test service is a prime example of how Quest Diagnostics illuminates care gaps from its uniquely large laboratory dataset and then creates solutions to improve patient care and public health.”

The company said that obstetric tests are usually performed during early pregnancy, and include complete blood count (CBC), blood typing, hepatitis B, syphilis, and rubella tests.

In the recent years, Hepatitis C infections in pregnant women and other populations have increased, primarily due to increased intravenous drug use.

Hepatitis C is the most common bloodborne infection in the US and is a leading cause of liver-related morbidity and mortality, said the company.

The US Preventative Services Task Force, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the Society of Maternal-Foetal Medicine issued practice guidance recommending one-time HCV screening during pregnancy.

The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued guidance recommending HCV screening for all pregnant women, excluding regions where its prevalence is less than 0.1%.

Quest Diagnostics said that despite guidelines recommending HCV screening in pregnancy, many people are not receiving the testing, especially those in underserved communities.

Quest Diagnostics women’s health senior medical director Damian Pat Alagia said: “Screening for HIV, HBV and syphilis is already standard in obstetric panels, and it is no coincidence that screening rates for these diseases during pregnancy are more than double the current rate as for HCV.

“By adding HCV screening to our obstetrics panel, physicians will be more likely to deliver guideline-based care that reduces HCV infection during pregnancy and fosters a positive outcome for the patient and their newborn.”