Certain Syringes More Likely To Spread Hepatitis C Virus Among Drug Users

February 15, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- A Yale School of Medicine study reveals that the high prevalence of the hepatitis C virus (HCV) among injection drug users may be partly due to the resilience of the virus in certain types of syringes. The study, which could open new avenues in preventing the spread of HCV, will be the focus of a presentation and press conference at the 17th Conference of Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections on Friday, February 19, 2010 at the Moscone Center West in San Francisco.

This is believed to be the first study establishing the survival of HCV in contaminated syringes and the duration of potential infectiousness. HCV is transmitted through blood-to-blood contact. There is currently no vaccine against HCV, and treatments are problematic because of limited efficacy, high cost and side effects. Untreated, HCV can cause severe and even death. from people sharing contaminated syringes is one of the most common and predictable consequences of injection drug use.

The Yale team simulated the most common scenarios of injection drug use in order to measure the longevity of the residual virus-blood mixture left in syringes after injection. After loading blood spiked with HCV into various syringes and depressing their plungers, researchers tested the residual blood for the presence of infective HCV immediately and after storage for up nine weeks.

They observed a prolonged survival of HCV infection at all storage temperatures, with viable amounts measured even at nine weeks in tuberculin syringes that have detachable needles. They observed far less viable HCV in insulin syringes with attached needles.

“This tells us that syringes with detachable needles are the most dangerous in terms of potential HCV infection, because they are far more likely to transmit a surviving virus,” said lead author Elijah Paintsil, M.D., assistant professor of pediatrics and pharmacology at Yale School of Medicine.

The finding of prolonged HCV survival in detachable-needle syringes has greatest implication outside of the Untied States, where use of these syringes is more common. But it also has major health implications for cities and towns everywhere, including the U.S., that offer needle-exchange programs. “These programs often stress the importance of providing injection drug users with syringes that meet their needs,” Paintsil said. “Our findings suggest that if the goal is to reduce HCV transmission, these programs should discourage use of detachable-needle syringes.”

Explore further: High-risk behaviors could lead to HIV epidemic in Afghanistan

Related Stories

Shared Crack Pipes May Spread Hepatitis C Virus

December 12, 2007

A new study by the University of Victoria’s Centre for Addictions Research (CARBC) suggests that the Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) could possibly be passed on between crack smokers who share pipes. As the vast majority of new ...

Improved culture system for hepatitis C virus infection

July 16, 2008

A University of California, San Diego School of Medicine researcher has developed the first tissue culture of normal, human liver cells that can model infection with the Hepatitis C virus (HCV) and provide a realistic environment ...

Early treatment is key to combating hepatitis C virus

August 8, 2008

Canadian researchers have shown that patients who receive early treatment for Hepatitis C virus (HCV) within the first months following an infection, develop a rapid poly-functional immune response against HCV similar to ...

Recommended for you

How the finch changes its tune

August 3, 2015

Like top musicians, songbirds train from a young age to weed out errors and trim variability from their songs, ultimately becoming consistent and reliable performers. But as with human musicians, even the best are not machines. ...

Machine Translates Thoughts into Speech in Real Time

December 21, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- By implanting an electrode into the brain of a person with locked-in syndrome, scientists have demonstrated how to wirelessly transmit neural signals to a speech synthesizer. The "thought-to-speech" process ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.