Never injected, but hepatitis C virus-infected: A study among self-declared never-injecting drug users from the Amsterdam Cohort Studies

C H S B van den Berg, T J W van de Laar, A Kok, F R Zuure, R A Coutinho, M Prins

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The aim of this study was to gain insight in transmission routes of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection among never-injecting drug users (DU) by studying, incidence, prevalence, determinants and molecular epidemiology of HCV infection. From the Amsterdam Cohort Studies among DU, 352 never-injecting DU were longitudinally tested for HCV antibodies. Logistic regression was used to identify factors associated with antibody prevalence. Part of HCV NS5B was sequenced to determine HCV genotype and for phylogenetic analyses, in which sequences were compared with those from injecting DU. HCV antibody prevalence was 6.3% and HCV incidence was 0.49/1000 PY. HIV-positive status, female sex and starting injection drug use during follow-up (a putative marker of past injection drug use), were independently associated with HCV prevalence. The main genotypes found were genotype 3a (50%) and 1a (30%). Phylogenetic analysis revealed that HCV strains in never-injecting DU did not cluster together and did not differ from HCV strains circulating in injecting DU. We found a higher HCV prevalence in never-injecting DU than in the general population. Phylogenetic analysis shows a strong link with the injecting DU population. The increased risk could be related to underreporting of injecting drug use or to household or sexual transmission from injectors to noninjectors. Our findings stress the need for HCV testing of DU who report never injecting, especially given the potential to treat HCV infection effectively.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)568-577
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of viral hepatitis
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug-2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Adult
  • Cluster Analysis
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Genotype
  • Hepacivirus
  • Hepatitis C
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Molecular Epidemiology
  • Netherlands
  • Phylogeny
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA
  • Sequence Homology
  • Seroepidemiologic Studies
  • Substance-Related Disorders
  • Viral Nonstructural Proteins
  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

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