Approximately 150 million people are infected with hepatitis C, a viral infection that negatively impacts the liver, according to the World Health Organization. Immediately after the initial infection, about 80 percent of individuals do not show symptoms of the disease, which increases the chances of them giving it to other people. Now, researchers from the University of Oxford claim that intravenous drug usage by those with hepatitis C may be spreading the virus to even more individuals.
This disease can be spread through unprotected intercourse and contact with infected bodily fluids, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. While condoms can prevent the disease from being contracted sexually, little can be done for protection when individuals are using contaminated needles.
"For the first time we show that super-spreading in hepatitis C is led by intravenous drug users early in their infection," said Gkikas Magiorkinis, M.D., 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."
Understanding hepatitis C
Sexually transmitted diseases, such as gonorrhea and chlamydia, are typically treated with antibiotics, but hepatitis C is often tackled with antiviral medication
Blood tests can be conducted to determine the presence of hepatitis C in the body. From there, liver function tests can be performed to gauge how significantly the condition has affected the liver.