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Published On: Sat, Feb 2nd, 2013

Targeting IV drug users the key to controlling the spread of Hepatitis C: study

Newly published research suggests that the key to controlling the spread of slower spreading diseases like Hepatitis C and similar viruses is the early diagnosis and treatment of intravenous drug users, or as they call them, “super-spreaders”, according to a study by researchers from the University of Oxford published this week in the online journal, PLoS Computational Biology.

Public domain photo/Psychonaught

Public domain photo/Psychonaught

Researchers say that each intravenous (IV) drug user is likely to infect around 20 other people with the virus, half of these transmissions occurring in the first two years after the user is first infected.

Because of this, the target of controlling the spread of diseases like Hepatitis C is the early diagnosis and treatment of Hepatitis C in intravenous drug users could prevent many transmissions by limiting the impact of these ‘super-spreaders’ (a highly infectious person who spreads a disease to many other people), researchers suggest.

For the study, researchers examined  information on nearly 1,000  patients in Greece from four hepatitis C epidemics, and used a mathematical model and followed the spread of disease from one patient to the next to determine how long it took secondary infection to occur.

‘For the first time we show that super-spreading in Hepatitis C is led by intravenous drug users early in their infection,’ said Dr Gkikas Magiorkinis of Oxford University’s Department of Zoology, lead author of the study. ‘Using this information we can hopefully soon make a solid argument to support the scaling-up of early diagnosis and antiviral treatment in drug users. Helping these people and stopping the spread of Hepatitis C is our ultimate target.’

‘Working out how many people are likely to be infected by each ‘super-spreader’ of Hepatitis C, as well as how soon they will be infected, has been a puzzle for over 20 years,’ said Dr Magiorkinis. ‘Our research has resolved this issue and paves the way for a modelling study to show what kind of public health interventions could really make a difference. Our approach should also be very useful to those studying HIV.’

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About the Author

- Writer, Co-Founder and Executive Editor of The Global Dispatch. Robert has been covering news in the areas of health, world news and politics for a variety of online news sources. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of the website, Outbreak News Today and hosts the podcast, Outbreak News Interviews on iTunes, Stitcher and Spotify Robert is politically Independent and a born again Christian Follow @bactiman63

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