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Risk of Hepatitis C virus re-infection following spontaneous viral clearance in injecting drug users: A systematic review

Corson, Stephen and Greenhalgh, David and Palmateer, Norah Elizabeth and Weir, Amanda and Hutchinson, Sharon (2011) Risk of Hepatitis C virus re-infection following spontaneous viral clearance in injecting drug users: A systematic review. International Journal of Drug Policy, 22 (2). pp. 102-108. ISSN 0955-3959

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Abstract

In order to develop new ways to prevent Hepatitis C virus (HCV) transmission amongst injecting drug users (IDUs), it is necessary to fully understand the dynamics of this disease. We reviewed the evidence on three key areas of HCV transmission in this population: the rate of acute HCV infection amongst IDUs who have spontaneously resolved a previous infection, the rate of chronic HCV infection amongst IDUs who have spontaneously resolved a previous infection, and the ability of IDUs to be re-infected with either the same or a different HCV genotype. A literature search of PUBMED (January 1950 to January 2009), EMBASE (January 1980 to January 2009) and PsycINFO (January 1967 to January 2009) for English language, primary research papers was undertaken to identify longitudinal studies examining HCV re-infection following spontaneous viral clearance amongst IDUs. The systematic review identified three studies that satisfied the inclusion and exclusion criteria. Regarding the risk of acute HCV infection amongst IDUs, the findings from the three studies were conflicting and thus provided no compelling evidence in support of an increased or decreased risk of acute infection amongst IDUs who have spontaneously resolved compared to those previously uninfected. Limited evidence was found from two studies to support a reduced risk of subsequent chronic HCV infection in those who have previously spontaneously resolved an infection. Further, two studies found IDUs who spontaneously resolved an infection can be re-infected (with comparable proportions) with either the same or a different HCV genotype. The limited, and sometimes contradictory, evidence published in the worldwide literature highlights the need for more longitudinal studies of IDUs to fully understand the dynamics of the disease in this population.