Skip to Main content Skip to Navigation
Journal articles

[Hepatitis C in a psychiatric setting: A forgotten reservoir?]

Abstract : Hepatitis C is a transmissible hepatic and extra-hepatic disease caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV). HCV develops into a chronic infection among approximately 70% of the contaminated subjects. Chronic HCV infection is estimated to affect between 0.5% and 1 % of the general population in France, which causes an important burden of disease, in particular due to the occurrence of cirrhosis and liver cancer. New antiviral drugs now allow to cure more than 95% of patients in just a few weeks of treatment with very limited safety issues. This therapeutic revolution has led the World Health Organization and many national governments to aim for an elimination of HCV, which has been defined as a 90%-reduction of the incidence rate, and a 65%-reduction in the number of HCV-related deaths on the basis of the 2015 figures. In this respect, the French Ministry of Health has recently decided to extend the ability to prescribe the new antiviral drugs to any physician. However, the elimination campaign of HCV will also need to correctly identify, screen, and treat the main target populations. If people who inject drugs (PWIDs) certainly constitute the most important population concerned by the challenge of HCV elimination, more hidden reservoirs in which HCV transmission can insidiously evolve should be identified and specifically targeted as well. Inpatient psychiatric populations might constitute one of these hidden reservoirs. International data suggest that chronic HCV infection affects approximately 5% of psychiatric inpatients in Europe. This very high prevalence estimate can in part be due to the very frequent psychiatric disorders found among the current or former PWIDs. However, a part of the seropositive patients does not report a history of drug use, and other factors could contribute to the increased risk of contamination in this population including atypical routes of transmission related to institutional promiscuity. Exploring the general profile and risk-behaviors of the psychiatric inpatients found infected by the HCV is thus warranted for future studies. Screening and treating HCV in the specific population of psychiatric patients is part of the general public health objective of eliminating HCV at a national level. Moreover, it also directly fits into the individualized psychiatric care. Many recent data suggest that HCV also has a neural tropism, in particular within glial cells, such as astrocytes or oligodendrocytes. As such, HCV foments inflammatory processes in the brain and contributes to cognitive impairments and psychiatric symptoms such as anxiety or depression. At the individual level, treating HCV infection can improve the psychiatric state and increase patients' outcomes in terms of well-being and quality of life. For all these reasons, the field of psychiatry needs local and national actions for informing and training professionals about HCV screening and treating modalities. Patient and family associations also need to be involved in this general effort of micro-elimination. A key role should be assigned to the general practitioners embedded within inpatient psychiatric units. They are the best fitted professionals to screen, treat, and empower patients, to inform and train other caregivers of the psychiatric field, and to act as a relay with hepatology teams if required. Hospital pharmacists are other important stakeholders. In a national context in which the funding of psychiatric care, including medications, is based on predefined funding envelops, innovative initiatives will have to be set up by local or national health authorities, in partnership with pharmacists, to allow for the treatment of psychiatric inpatients. In conclusion, the world of psychiatry is a possible hidden reservoir of HCV and, as such, a part of the challenge for eliminating the virus. Patients, families, and caregivers will have to be correctly sensitized and trained to play their role in the process. Specific investigations will be required to better understand why such an increased prevalence of HCV is observed in this population. Specific adaptations of the cascade of care within psychiatric settings, including access to treatment, will need to be designed, implemented, and evaluated for reaching micro-elimination of HCV in psychiatry.
Document type :
Journal articles
Complete list of metadatas
Contributor : Christine Dupuis <>
Submitted on : Friday, January 8, 2021 - 4:45:32 PM
Last modification on : Tuesday, January 12, 2021 - 5:40:07 PM


Publication funded by an institution


Distributed under a Creative Commons Attribution - NonCommercial - NoDerivatives 4.0 International License



B Rolland, F Bailly, C Cutarella, O Drevon, P Carrieri, et al.. [Hepatitis C in a psychiatric setting: A forgotten reservoir?]. L'Encéphale, Elsevier Masson, 2020, pp.S0013-7006(20)30082-8. ⟨10.1016/j.encep.2020.03.003⟩. ⟨inserm-03104185⟩



Record views


Files downloads