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Hepatitis C transmission in injecting drug users

 

Clinical bottom line

Injecting drug users have a high rate of infection with hepatitis C, at about 13% a year. Transmission is strongly associated with sharing needles and syringes.


Reference

C Brunton et al. Cumulative incidence of hepatitis C seroconversion in a cohort of seronegative injecting drug users. New Zealand Medical Journal 2000 113: 98-101.

Study

The sample population was 85 injecting drug users participating in a seroprevalence study in 1994 and who declared themselves willing to be recontacted in future. When contacted in 1996 basic demographic details were sought, a questionnaire administered about drug behaviour and a blood sample taken.

Results

Only 44 participants (five overseas) could both be contacted and were willing to participate, though only five refused to participate when contacted. The mean age of those responding was 25 years, and they had a six-year history of injected drug use.

Of 39 who gave blood samples, nine were positive for antibodies to hepatitis C. Four also had detectable hepatitis C RNA. This is a cumulative seroconversion rate over two years of 23%. All nine had borrowed needles or syringes, and eight had also lent needles or syringes. The rates for borrowing and lending for drug users negative for hepatitis C was 40% and 33% respectively.

Comment

Injecting drug users have a high rate of infection with hepatitis C, at about 13% a year. Transmission is strongly associated with sharing needles and syringes.