Volume 11 Issue 179
Published - 14:00 UTC 08:00 EST 11-Jul-2009 
Next Update - 14:00 UC 08:00 EST 12-Jul-2009

Editor: Susan K. Boyer, RN
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Time to hepatitis C infection in injection drug users lengthening in developed countries

(11 July 2009: VIDYYA MEDICAL NEWS SERVICE) -- Hepatitis C (HCV), a blood-borne infection that can cause liver damage and death, is very common among injection drug users (IDUs) and is transmitted mainly by the sharing of drug preparation or injection equipment. Researchers funded by NIDA have found that the time from onset of injection drug use to HCV infection for IDUs in developed countries has lengthened since 1995. The researchers analyzed 72 studies of HCV infection in IDUs published between 1989 and 2006. In addition, the researchers compared studies from developed countries (such as the United States) with studies from developing countries.

They also compared studies completed before 1995 with studies completed after 1995 to measure the impact of increased HIV/HCV awareness in developed countries. They found that in developed countries, HCV prevalence in IDUs who had been injecting drugs for less than 2 years had declined from an estimated 53 percent before 1995 to 38 percent more recently. The prevalence in developing countries remains higher—for example, a 59 percent prevalence of HCV infection at 1 year of drug injection. Whether or not the prevalence in developing countries had decreased at all since 1995 could not be determined because only one study collected data on HCV in developing countries before 1995. Although the results show that many IDUs avoid HCV infection in the first year of drug injection, a substantial proportion of new injectors still acquire HCV rapidly. The authors conclude that a heavy investment in public health resources will likely be needed to make further gains in HCV prevention.

Hagan H, Pouget ER, Des Jarlais DC, Lelutiu-Weinberger C. Meta-regression of hepatitis C virus infection in relation to time since onset of illicit drug injection: The influence of time and place. Am J Epidemiol. 2008;168(10):1099–1109.

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