C Risk Not Limited to Injection Drug Users
A study in New
York City has found a higher than expected prevalence of
hepatitis C infection among non-injecting drug users. In this
study, as many as 17 percent of the subjects who denied a
history of injection drug use were found to be infected,
compared to a 2 percent infection rate in the general
population. Among women from one of the study sites in East
Harlem who reported use of non-injection heroin, the rate of
infection was as high as 26 percent.
The findings, published in the May
1 issue of Substance Use & Misuse, may indicate
that use of needles and syringes is not the only drug-related
risk factor for Hepatitis C Virus.
Currently, about 60 percent of all
new cases of Hepatitis C Virus infection in the U.S. are attributable to
syringe and needle-sharing with an infected individual. Dr.
Alan I. Leshner, NIDA Director, says this study demonstrates
that "We need to look closer for other routes of Hepatitis C Virus
transmission among non-injecting drug-users. If hepatitis C
can be transmitted through the sharing of non-injecting drug
paraphernalia such as straws or pipes, we need to include this
information in public health messages targeted to this
Dr. Stephanie Tortu, from the
Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical
Medicine, in collaboration with Dr. Alan Neaigus of the
National Development and Research Institutes, Inc. in New York
City, conducted two separate studies with self-reported
non-injecting drug users recruited from two NYC neighborhoods.
The study participants either denied ever injecting drugs or
reported that they had not injected drugs within the past six
months prior to participating in the study.
Of 107 women and 251 men from the
Lower East Side of Manhattan who reported never injecting, 14
percent of the women and 18 percent of the men were found to
be infected with hepatitis C. Of the 171 women in the East
Harlem sample who reported no history of injection drug use,
17 percent were found to be infected.
These rates, while lower than for
those who had reported histories of injection drug use, were
higher than those found in the general population. Of those
who had reported past injection drug use, more than half of
the men and women in the sample from the Lower East Side, and
62 percent of the women from East Harlem, were infected.
"These studies indicate that
the prevalence of Hepatitis C Virus among drug users who report that they
have never injected is substantially higher than for the
general population in the U.S. and several other countries,
and prevalence may vary according to population, gender, age,
and drugs used," says Dr. Tortu. "Further research
is needed to determine the risk factors for Hepatitis C Virus transmission
among those with no history of injecting drugs."
The National Institute on Drug
Abuse is a component of the National Institutes of Health,
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aspects of drug abuse and addiction. The Institute carries out
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further information on NIDA research and other activities can
be found on the NIDA home page at http://www.drugabuse.gov.