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Ann Epidemiol. 2000 Oct 1;10(7):472-473.

The multiperson use of non-syringe injection equipment and risk of hepatitis c infection in a cohort of young adult injection drug users, chicago 1997-1999.

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  • 1University of Illinois at Chicago, School of Public Health, Chicago, IL, USA


PURPOSE: The possibility that hepatitis C virus (HCV) is transmitted via the multiperson use of injection paraphernalia other than syringes has been suggested, but epidemiologic studies to examine the association are difficult to design due to saturation levels of infection in most samples of injection drug users (IDUs). This study (1) assembled a sample of young adult IDUs, among whom hepatitis C infection prevalence was still moderate, (2) measured incident HCV infection, and (3) determined the risk for seroconversion associated with specific forms of sharing injection paraphernalia.METHODS: Between 1997 and 1999, 702 IDUs, 18-30 years old, were interviewed and screened for antibodies to HCV at baseline and at 6 and 12 months post-baseline. Participants were recruited through street outreach, advertising and chain-referral from ethnically diverse neighborhoods in metropolitan Chicago. Data were analyzed using standard survival statistical methods.RESULTS: HCV prevalence was 27% at enrollment. During 296.5 person-years of observation, we observed 37 HCV seroconversions (incidence: 12.5/100 person-years). The adjusted relative hazard (RH) of seroconversion, after controlling for demographic and drug use covariates, was highest for sharing cookers (RH, 3.58; 95% CI 1.47-8.70), followed by sharing rinse water (RH, 2.16; 95% CI 1.03-4.52), and cottons (RH, 1.84; 95% CI 0.95-3.56). Risk associated with syringe sharing was marginally significant, and backloading was unassociated with hepatitis C seroconversion. Adjusting for syringe sharing, the independent effects of sharing cookers and cottons remained significant, and a final model that included each sharing practice demonstrated that sharing cookers had at the strongest association with seroconversion (RH, 3.03; 95% CI 1.05-8.72).CONCLUSIONS: This study suggests that sharing non-syringe paraphernalia may be an important cause of hepatitis C virus transmission between IDUs.

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