The Food and Drug Administration on Thursday approved the first blood test that can identify different strains of the hepatitis C virus to help guide a patient's treatment.
Abbot Laboratories Inc.'s RealTime HCV Genotype II test is designed to figure out the strain of the virus in patients who are already known to have hepatitis C rather than diagnosing patients with the virus itself. Knowing the type of virus is important because different strains respond differently to the treatments available.
The test can identify seven different types of the virus, including three varieties of hepatitis C genotype 1. That's the most common type of the virus in the Western world and the hardest to treat.
About 3.2 million people in the U.S. are believed to have chronic hepatitis C. Untreated chronic infections can cause liver damage, liver failure and liver cancer.
Shares of North Chicago, Ill.-based Abbott lost 90 cents, or 2.5 percent, to $35.29 in afternoon trading.