May 12, 2004
Recent research from Italy showed that the incidence of hepatitis B infection decreased, due to anti-HBV vaccination, in a cohort of drug users followed over 15 years. "In the Western world," the scientists wrote, "the population at the highest risk of HBV infection is probably that of illicit drug users (DUs). Since 1985, the Public Health Center for Drug Users (PHCDU), in northeastern Italy, has been asking all heroin DUs, whether in treatment or not, to undergo screening for HIV, HBV and, since 1989, for HCV infection. Since 1988 the Center has proposed HBV vaccination to all patients who were negative for all HBV markers.
"From 1985 to 2001, 895 heroin DUs were screened, 726 males and 169 females," reported Fabio Lugoboni and colleagues at the University of Verona. "Four hundred and forty-two (49.4 percent) were negative to HBV markers at the first control and 72.4 percent received at least one dose of the vaccine. Three hundred and twenty DUs were vaccinated and a total of 995 doses of recombinant vaccine were administered. The anti-HBc antibody appeared in 2 vaccinated patients out of 258 DUs undergoing controls, while 13 seroconversions for anti-HBc occurred in 45 DUs who had refused to be vaccinated.
"On the basis of these results," the study continued, "HBV vaccination of DUs can be strongly recommended. Vaccination showed a good adherence in a population difficult to treat and can have a leading role in reducing HBV infection in DUs and their contacts."
The report, "Progressive Decrease of Hepatitis B in a Cohort of Drug Users Followed over a Period of 15 Years: The Impact of Anti-HBV Vaccination," appeared in the Scandinavian Journal of Infectious Diseases (2004;36(2);131-133).