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PLoS One. 2014 Jun 9;9(6):e99677. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0099677. eCollection 2014.

Evolution of the global burden of viral infections from unsafe medical injections, 2000-2010.

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Department of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, Université de Sherbrooke, Sherbrooke, Québec, Canada.



In 2000, the World Health Organization estimated that, in developing and transitional countries, unsafe injections accounted for respectively 5%, 32% and 40% of new infections with HIV, hepatitis B virus (HBV) and hepatitis C virus (HCV). Safe injection campaigns were organized worldwide. The present study sought to measure the progress in reducing the transmission of these viruses through unsafe injections over the subsequent decade.


A mass action model was updated, to recalculate the number of injection-related HIV, HCV and HBV infections acquired in 2000 and provide estimates for 2010. Data about the annual number of unsafe injections were updated. HIV prevalence in various regions in 2000 and 2010 were calculated from UNAIDS data. The ratio of HIV prevalence in healthcare settings compared to the general population was estimated from a literature review. Improved regional estimates of the prevalence of HCV seropositivity, HBsAg and HBeAg antigenemia were used for 2000 and 2010. For HIV and HCV, revised estimates of the probability of transmission per episode of unsafe injection were used, with low and high values allowing sensitivity analyses.


Despite a 13% population growth, there was a reduction of respectively 87% and 83% in the absolute numbers of HIV and HCV infections transmitted through injections. For HBV, the reduction was more marked (91%) due to the additional impact of vaccination. While injections-related cases had accounted for 4.6%-9.1% of newly acquired HIV infections in 2000, this proportion decreased to 0.7%-1.3% in 2010, when unsafe injections caused between 16,939 and 33,877 HIV infections, between 157,592 and 315,120 HCV infections, and 1,679,745 HBV infections.


From 2000 to 2010, substantial progress was made in reducing the burden of HIV, HCV and HBV infections transmitted through injections. In some regions, their elimination might become a reasonable public health goal.

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