TAYSIDE is on track to become to first region in the world to eliminate the blood-borne virus, Hepatitis C, MSPs have heard.

A debate at the Scottish Parliament heard that a pharmacist-led drive to diagnose and treat the condition among active drug users was helping to stamp out the virus in the Tayside region much faster than other parts of Scotland, and the rest of the world.

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Aileen Campbell, Scotland's Minister for Public Health, said she would meet with clinicians from NHS Tayside on Tuesday to find out "what learning we can share and replicate" around the country.

An estimated 37,000 people in Scotland are infected with hepatitis C, but an estimated 40 per cent of cases are undiagnosed.

In Tayside, the rate of undiagnosed cases is believed to be just 20 per cent.

Left untreated, it can lead to life-threatening liver damage. However, new drug treatments available on the NHS have been shown to cure the infection.

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The debate on the hepatitis C virus (HCV) was held in the wake of a report by The Hepatitis C Trust in January, which warned that Scotland was at risk of missing its target to eliminate the virus in Scotland by 2030.

Mairi Gougeon, an SNP MSP whose constituency covers part of Tayside, said the work undertaken there was "on course to make Tayside the first region in the world to have eliminated HCV".

She added: "That's huge, and that's largely due to the pioneering approach they've taken to tackling the virus which uses treatment as prevention."

Ms Gougeon said NHS Tayside had shifted from targetting treatment to former drug users to focusing on current addicts, particularly those being prescribed opioid replacement therapies such as methadone.

This meant the virus could be treated earlier in order to dramatically reduce minimise its spread - for example through contaminated needles.

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Testing and treatment of the virus in Tayside is led by community pharmacists.

Ms Gougeon added: "It is now estimated that 80 per cent of people in Tayside with hepatitis C have been diagnosed compared to 60 per cent nationally and transmission rates which currently sit at five to 10 per cent are expected to reduce to just one per cent in the coming few years."