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Researchers Call for Greater Hep C Screening for Young Drug Users

December 10, 2019

Hepatitis C infection is becoming more prevalent among adolescent and young adult drug users, but research conducted at Boston Medical Center suggests that screening and subsequent treatment for this population need to improve significantly.

A new study, published in JAMA, found that less than 30% of 13-to-21 year olds reporting opioid, methamphetamine and/or cocaine use were tested for hepatitis C. The patient sample was derived from those receiving care at federally qualified health centers (FQHCs).

In the period from 2013-2016, persons ages 15 to 24 accounted for around 9% of all cases of chronic hep C infection, up from 3.8% in 2009.

“Improving our standards for testing and identifying at-risk populations sooner and treating those with chronic infection are necessary to ultimately reduce hepatitis C transmission,” said lead researcher Rachel Epstein, MD, an infectious diseases physician at Boston Medical Center.

The researchers stated that the majority of new hepatitis C infections are now occurring among individuals under age 30 who inject drugs.

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