10 million illegal drug users have hepatitis C: study
Some 10 million people who inject illegal drugs have hepatitis C while 1.2 million have hepatitis B, according to the first global estimate of infection rates among this population.
Both viral diseases are debilitating and potentially deadly, and public health officials must step up efforts to combat blood-borne transmission and to lower treatment costs, the researchers urged.
The health and economic costs of hepatitis C (HCV) spread via injected drugs, on its own, may be as high or higher than for similarly transmitted cases of HIV, they said.
The study, published in the British journal The Lancet, found that fully two-thirds of the global population of "injecting drug users" have been exposed, and thus infected, to HVC.
About 80 percent are destined to develop chronic infections, and up to 11 percent of these individuals will, within two decades, suffer cirrhosis, which can cause liver failure and cancer.
There is currently no vaccine for the hepatitis C virus.
The portion of drug users with HCV -- inferred from the presence of hepatitis C antibody -- varied among the 77 countries from which data was collected.
The rate was 60 to 80 percent in 25 nations, including Spain (80 percent), Norway (76), Germany (75), France (74), the United States (73), China (67) and Canada (64).
In 12 countries, the percentage was higher than 80, including Italy, Portugal, Pakistan, The Netherlands, Thailand and Mexico, which had a 97 percent infection rate among mainlining drug users.
The United Kingdom, New Zealand and Australia had among the lowest percentage, just over half.http://yhoo.it/pScY9k