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Injection Drug Users With Hepatitis C Are “Super-Spreaders” of the Virus

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People who inject drugs and have hepatitis C are “super-spreaders” of the virus, who are likely to infect 20 other people, a new study finds. Half of hepatitis C virus transmissions take place in the first two years after a person is initially infected.

Researchers from the University of Oxford in England say early diagnosis and treatment of hepatitis C in people who inject drugs could help prevent the spread of the virus, HealthDay reports.

Hepatitis C, which can be spread through contact with infected blood, may lead to scarring of the liver, or liver cancer. There is no vaccine for the disease, the article notes. Many people with hepatitis C are unaware they have the disease, and go undiagnosed for more than a decade.

“For the first time we show that super-spreading in hepatitis C is led by intravenous drug users early in their infection,” study author Gkikas Magiorkinis said in a university news release. “Using this information, we can hopefully soon make a solid argument to support the scaling-up of early diagnosis and antiviral treatment in drug users. Helping these people and stopping the spread of hepatitis C is our ultimate target.”

The study appears in the journal PLoS Computational Biology.

2 Responses to this article

  1. Ken Wolski / February 2, 2013 at 12:40 pm

    I have practiced as a registered nurse in NJ & PA for the past 36 years, including ten years as an Infection Control Officer. In October 1993, I wrote a position paper in support of Syringe Exchange Programs (SEPs) for the Association for Professionals in Infection Control (APIC). APIC readily endorsed SEPs. The New Jersey State Nurses Association and the Centers for Disease Control had already come out in support of SEPs by 1993. The best scientific studies of the day showed that SEPs could reduce the spread of blood borne pathogens like HCV and HIV by up to 33% in an intravenous drug using population, without resulting in more drug use or more drug users. Yet political opposition to SEPs—concerns about the “message” SEPs send– has stopped this proven harm reduction device in many communities, resulting in the unchecked spread of these deadly diseases. The real “message” of SEPs is that the government cares about its citizens — all its citizens — and accepts its responsibility to prevent the spread of disease in the community.

  2. Carlos / February 1, 2013 at 5:17 pm

    Governments WAKE UP!!! whether you are true believers of abstinence, or not. If we care about the health and welfare of innocent persons as well as users, we need to start working with Injection Drug Users from a harm reduction modality. We most not only allow syringe exchange in a vast scale, so that IDU use the syringe once (like diabetics do) and appropriately dispose of them, but also provide other health care. Including education in a wide scale to those who are and have the potential of spreading the virus. We are spending all our most important resources towards AIDS (which is also extremely important), but we nearly or compatibly ignore the importance of Hepatitis. Consistently research have been telling us for decades that 90% of IDU have one of the hepatitis.
    If we do not cooperate with them, not demand that they do as we say. The spread of Hepatitis C, is going to become (if is not already so)

    We deal with IDU as if they were dangerous national security solely because of their drug use. Our stigmatizing, discrimination and bigotry attitude toward them is not in our best interest. We have to get off our “Hard Ass” attitude toward them. Even treatment staff seem to be the greatest spreaders of stigma.
    Not many here seem to have been present, at “get off houses”, were it is not rare to see
    5 or so patients wait in line for syringes where the numbers are clearly gone, and the needle seem like a nail not a very sharp instrument. WHAT TO FEEL POWERLESS?

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