Bi-Valley Medical Clinic, University of California, Davis, USA.
Objective: This study measured the extent and examined implications of hepatitis C (HCV) infection in a methadone maintenance treatment (MMT) population.
Method: Four hundred and sixty patients were tested for HCV-Ab, hepatic enzymes and bilirubin, HCV-RNA, and hepatitis B antibody.
Results: Overall, 87% of this population had evidence of HCV-Ab. Among drug injectors (IDU), 96% were HCV-Ab positive. Among a subset of Laotian opium-smoking patients prevalence was only 11%. Sixty-two percent of patients with HCV-Ab had detectable HCV-RNA. Only 41% had elevated hepatic enzymes, and 5% had elevated bilirubin levels. All age groups were equally infected. Systemic problems in screening and treating HCV in drug users were identified.
Conclusion: HCV infection poses significant long-term health risks for this population. Harm reduction interventions aimed at reducing transmission of HCV and other needle-related infectious disease deserves more consideration.