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Epidemiological aspects of HCV infection in non-injecting drug users in the Brazilian state of Pará, eastern Amazon

Aldemir B Oliveira-Filho12*, Leila Sawada3, Laine C Pinto4, Daiane Locks4, Santana L Bahia4, Jairo A A Castro25, Renata B Hermes24, Igor Brasil-Costa45, Carlos E M Amaral24 and José Alexandre R Lemos24

Author Affiliations

1 Instituto de Estudos Costeiros, Campus de Bragança, Universidade Federal do Pará, Alameda Leandro Ribeiro, s/n. Aldeia, 68600-000 Bragança, Pará, Brazil

2 Centro de Hematologia e Hemoterapia do Pará, Belém, Pará, Brazil

3 Chiba Institute of Technology, Tsudanuma, Narashino-shi, Chiba, Japan

4 Instituto de Ciências Biológicas, Universidade Federal do Pará, Belém, Pará, Brazil

5 Instituto Evandro Chagas, Ananindeua, Pará, Brazil

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Virology Journal 2014, 11:38  doi:10.1186/1743-422X-11-38

Published: 25 February 2014



Currently, sharing of drug paraphernalia is the main form of HCV transmission worldwide. In South America, consistent findings indicate that shared sniffing equipment is an important factor in the spread of HCV among non-injecting drug users. Epidemiological data on the status of HCV infection in illicit drug users in the Amazon region are scarce, although reports of clinical cases of hepatitis or pathologies associated with HCV infection in other population groups are numerous. Thereby, this study investigated the prevalence, genotype frequency, and epidemiological factors associated with HCV infection in non-injecting drug users in the state of Pará, eastern Amazon.


During 2008–2011, 300 non-injecting drug users attending drug-treatment centers participated in this study. Most non-injecting drug users were male (63.7%). The mean age was 32.5 years. The non-injecting drugs most consumed were: cannabis (15.6%), cocaine paste (21.3%), and oxi cocaine (25.7%). Tobacco (60.9%) and alcohol (79.4%) were also commonly consumed. One hundred six (35.1%; CI 95%: 29.8 - 41.1) non-injecting drug users presented anti-HCV antibodies by EIA. The HCV-RNA prevalence was 28.0% (95% CI: 20.6 - 35.8). Genotypes 1 (76.9%) and 3 (23.1%) of HCV have been identified. A multivariate analysis demonstrated that HCV infection was independently associated with the following factors: “age (≥ 35 years)”, “tattoos”, “use of a needle or syringe sterilized at home”, “shared use of drug paraphernalia”, “uses drugs for more than 5 years”, and “use of drugs everyday”.


This study revealed a high prevalence of HCV infection in non-injecting drug users, and most infections are occasioned by genotype 1. Likely, HCV transmission is associated with the tattoos, the use of needle or syringe sterilized at home by people over the age of 35 years, and sharing, time and frequency of use of non-injecting drugs. These findings should serve as an incentive for the establishment of a program of Hepatitis C prevention and control by the local public-health authorities in order to develop effective policies and strategies for contain the spread of HCV infection.

HCV; Epidemiology; Non-injecting drug; Public health; Amazon