The status of hepatitis C virus infection among people who inject drugs in the Middle East and North Africa



Mahmud S, Mumtaz GR, Chemaitelly H, Al Kanaani Z, Kouyoumjian SP, Hermez JG, Abu-Raddad LJ.


Addiction. 2020 Jul;115(7):1244-1262. doi: 10.1111/add.14944. Epub 2020 Feb 3.


BACKGROUND AND AIMS: People who inject drugs (PWID) are a key population at high risk of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection. The aim of this study was to delineate the epidemiology of HCV in PWID in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). METHODS: Syntheses of data were conducted on the standardized and systematically assembled databases of the MENA HCV Epidemiology Synthesis Project, 1989-2018. Random-effects meta-analyses and meta-regressions were performed. Meta-regression variables included country, study site, year of data collection and year of publication [to assess trends in HCV antibody prevalence over time], sample size and sampling methodology. Numbers of chronically infected PWID across MENA were estimated. The Shannon Diversity Index was calculated to assess genotype diversity. RESULTS: Based on 118 HCV antibody prevalence measures, the pooled mean prevalence in PWID for all MENA was 49.3% [95% confidence interval (CI) = 44.4-54.1%]. The country-specific pooled mean ranged from 21.7% (95% CI = 4.9-38.6%) in Tunisia to 94.2% (95% CI = 90.8-96.7%) in Libya. An estimated 221 704 PWID were chronically infected, with the largest numbers found in Iran at 68 526 and in Pakistan at 46 554. There was no statistically significant evidence for a decline in HCV antibody prevalence over time. Genotype diversity was moderate (Shannon Diversity Index of 1.01 out of 1.95; 52.1%). The pooled mean percentage for each HCV genotype was highest in genotype 3 (42.7%) and in genotype 1 (35.9%). CONCLUSION: Half of people who inject drugs in the Middle East and North Africa appear to have ever been infected with hepatitis C virus, but there are large variations in antibody prevalence among countries. In addition to > 200 000 chronically infected current people who inject drugs, there is an unknown number of people who no longer inject drugs who may have acquired hepatitis C virus during past injecting drug use. Harm reduction services must be expanded, and innovative strategies need to be employed to ensure accessibility to hepatitis C virus testing and treatment. CI – © 2020 The Authors. Addiction published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of Society for the Study of Addiction.

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Link/DOI: 10.1111/add.14944