Rapid transmission of hepatitis C virus among young injecting heroin users in Southern China

Rebecca J. Garten, Shenghan Lai, Jinbing Zhang, Wei Liu, Jie Chen, David Vlahov, Xiao Fang Yu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background. Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is quickly spread through injection drug use. The prevalence and incidence of HCV in Chinese heroin users has been rarely reported. Methods. A longitudinal cohort of young injection drug users (IDU) from southern China was established to study the risk factors for blood-borne infections (597 subjects). Individuals underwent analysis for the presence of hepatitis B surface antigen and antibodies to human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1), HCV and hepatitis B surface antigen. Using self-reported risk behaviours, multivariate regression analysis was performed for factors associated with HCV prevalence and seroconversion. Results. At baseline, HIV-1 and HCV prevalence was 17% and 72%, respectively. Significant factors associated with HCV seroprevalence included age >25 years (odds ratio [OR] = 1.71) and injection drug use for >2 years (OR = 2.60). HCV prevalence within one year of starting heroin use was 57% for any route of administration, and 80% if restricted to injectors. After two 6-month follow-up visits, 56 out of 159 baseline HCV seronegative individuals (148.9 total person years [py]), underwent seroconversion at an incidence rate of 37.6 per 100 py. Individuals who reported injection drug use were more likely to undergo HCV seroconversion (rate ratio [RR] = 6.59). Conclusions. HCV infection is rapidly acquired in heroin users who adopt injection in southern China. This study emphasizes the urgent need to implement and expand injection prevention and primary substance abuse prevention programmes in China.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)182-188
Number of pages7
JournalInternational journal of epidemiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2004


  • China
  • Epidemiology
  • Hepatitis C
  • Heroin
  • Injection drug use
  • Logistic model
  • Prevalence
  • Prevention
  • Risk factors
  • Substance abuse

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology


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