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Sharing Injection Equipment Spreads Hepatitis C

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    Sharing Injection Equipment Spreads Hepatitis C Tue Apr 2, 5:30 PM ET NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - A new report underscores the risks injection drug users face
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 3, 2002
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      Sharing Injection Equipment Spreads Hepatitis C
      Tue Apr 2, 5:30 PM ET

      NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - A new report underscores the risks
      injection drug users face for infection with the hepatitis C virus
      (HCV) from sharing commonly used drug paraphernalia other than
      syringes, such as drug "cookers" and cotton filters.


      While many anti-drug campaigns have warned of the hazards of sharing
      hypodermic needles, the new study found that injection drug users who
      shared cookers--containers used to dissolve and heat illicit drugs
      including heroin and cocaine--were four times more likely to contract
      HCV. Those who shared cotton filters more than doubled their risk of
      contracting the virus. Sharing syringes and rinse water also boosted
      risk, but not significantly.

      "In most injection sessions, drugs are placed in a cooker and
      dissolved in water. The solution is then drawn into a syringe through
      a cotton filter to strain out 'impurities,"' Dr. Lorna E. Thorpe of
      the University of Illinois at Chicago and colleagues explain in the
      April issue of the American Journal of Epidemiology.

      Thorpe's team followed 702 injection drug users from 1997 to 1999.
      All of the young adults in the study provided blood samples and those
      who did not already have HCV were retested 6 months and 1 year later.


      About one quarter of the drug users were already infected with HCV at
      the beginning of the study, the authors report.

      During the study period, 29 more became infected with the virus.
      After adjusting for the sharing of syringes, the researchers
      calculated that injection drug users who shared cookers were more
      than three times more likely to contract HCV. Sharing cotton filters
      more than doubled a person's risk of contracting HCV, the report
      indicates.

      "This study provides...evidence that sharing of drug injection
      paraphernalia other than syringes may cause transmission of HCV among
      injection drug users," Thorpe and colleagues write.

      "Prevention messages and campaigns should be revised to alert active
      injection drug users to the importance of reducing or eliminating all
      equipment-sharing practices," they conclude.

      Currently in the US, injection drug users are the group at highest
      risk for infection with HCV, with experts attributing more than 60%
      of new HCV cases to people who inject illicit drugs.

      HCV causes deterioration of the liver, or cirrhosis, in about 20% of
      people with chronic infection, and it can be fatal. A 6- to 12-month
      course of interferon treatment, sometimes given along with the
      antiviral drug ribavirin, wipes out HCV in about 40% of infected
      people.

      SOURCE: American Journal of Epidemiology 2002;155:645-653.


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