Epidemiology and Infection

Monitoring hepatitis C virus infection among injecting drug users in the European Union: a review of the literature

K. ROY a1c1, G. HAY a2, R. ANDRAGETTI a1, A. TAYLOR a1, D. GOLDBERG a1 and L. WIESSING a3
a1 Scottish Centre for Infection and Environmental Health, Clifton House, Clifton Place, Glasgow G3 7PN, UK
a2 Centre for Drug Misuse Research, University of Glasgow, Glasgow G12 8SQ, UK
a3 European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA), Lisbon, Portugal


Hepatitis C virus (HCV) among injecting drug users (IDUs) is one of the European Union's (EU) major public health problems. This review examines the current state of knowledge regarding HCV among IDUs in EU countries. Studies published between January 1990 and December 2000, were identified through a computerized search (MEDLINE and EMBASE). Ninety-eight studies have reported prevalence for HCV among groups of IDUs in all EU countries except Luxembourg. The prevalence of anti-HCV ranged from 30 to 98%. Incidence rates ranged from 6·2 to 39·3 per 100 person years. This review provides a comprehensive examination of HCV infection among IDUs in the countries of the EU, and quite clearly demonstrates that the quality and epidemiological relevance of the studies published varies widely. Thus, the reported data may not reflect accurately the current or recent past prevalence of HCV among IDUs in the EU. A strategic approach to the surveillance of HCV among IDUs in the EU, utilizing robust and consistent methods, is required urgently.

(Accepted August 22 2002)

c1 Author for correspondence.