A team from Chicago and Atlanta, Georgia, USA assessed the prevalence, risk factors, and prevention opportunities of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection in injection drug users.
698 young adult injection drug users (IDUs) were studied. All were between 18 and 30 years old, and from the Chicago area.
Study participants were recruited between 1997 and 1999 by using street outreach, targeted advertising, and chain-referral methods.
The team found that 27 per cent of participants were infected with HCV. Infection prevalence was strongly associated with both age and duration of injecting.
HCV infection in IDUs was strongly associated with age and duration of injecting
In multivariable analysis, sexual behaviors were unrelated to seropositivity, the researchers found.
Independent drug-related risk factors included frequent injection, heavy crack smoking, injecting in a shooting gallery, and syringe-mediated sharing. Urban residents were more likely than suburban residents to be infected.
Researcher Lorna Thorpe said, "Most studies on hepatitis C have shown rapid spread of infection among IDUs. However these findings underscore that opportunities to identify IDUs uninfected with HCV may be greater than assumed, and emphasize the need to target younger, newer IDUs."