Unsafe Injection Practices: A Potential Weapon for the Outbreak of Blood Borne Viruses in the Community

Author(s): Gupta E, Bajpai M, Sharma P, Shah A, Sarin SK

Background: Unsafe injection practices are common in developing nations. Such practices, through contaminated needles and syringes, place injection recipient, healthcare workers and the community at large at risk of infection with blood borne viruses. Aim: An attempt was made to briefly describe an acute hepatitis outbreak that occurred in Gujarat, India, due to unsafe injection practices with a brief review of the literature. Subjects and Methods: An outbreak of acute hepatitis occurred in February-March 2009 in the Sabarkantha district of Gujarat in India. Blood samples were collected randomly from 25 cases, admitted in the local hospital during the ongoing outbreak. Screening was done using an immunoassay analyzer (Cobas e411; Roche Diagnostics, Indianapolis, IN, USA) for hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg), IgM and total antibodies to hepatitis B core antigen (HBc), hepatitis B e antigen (HBeAg) and antibody to HBe, antibodies to HCV, HIV and IgM antibodies to hepatitis A virus (HAV), as per the manufacturer’s protocol. Results: Gross and continuous use of contaminated needle and syringes were responsible for this outbreak as all the patients gave history of receiving injections about 2-3 months prior to the development of clinical signs and symptoms, from one particular doctor. Mean age of the patients was 33.4 years (SD 12.9 years). Seventeen of these patients were males and eight were females. All patients were hepatitis B surface antigen positive, with median levels as 35,450 IU/mL (IQR 450-2,49,750 IU/mL). IgM HBc was positive in 22/25 (88%). HBe Ag was positive in 11 patients (44%). The median HBV DNA level was 2.6 × 104 IU/mL (IQR 1.18 × 102 to 6.7 × 106 IU/mL). No significant co-infection with other hepatitis viruses existed. All isolates were genotype D. Conclusions: The findings emphasize the role of unsafe injection practices in the community outbreak of hepatitis B infection, need to start routine surveillance system and increase awareness in health care workers regarding safe injection practices.


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