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Cocaine Snorting Linked to HCV

BOSTON (Reuter)
A study of blood donors who showed traces of past infection with the liver-damaging disease hepatitis C has uncovered a possible link between the infection and snorting cocaine. Snorting "could be an unrecognized route" for the hepatitis C virus to get into the body, said a team of medical researchers led by Dr. Cathy Conry-Cantilena of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

But the researchers noted in Thursday's New England Journal of Medicine that cocaine abuse may not be the actual cause of the hepatitis. Cocaine users may simply be more prone to other behaviors that make them vulnerable to the infection.

Hepatitis C is usually passed via contaminated blood. The researchers said it was possible the straws used to snort the drug could be tainted with blood and the virus could get into a user's body through the wall of the nose, which is often damaged in cocaine snorters. In a separate study of blood infections also in the Journal, a team of researchers concluded that there was a one in 34,000 likelihood that a pint of blood infected with the viruses responsible for AIDS or hepatitis would missed by a blood bank.

Using current tests, the likelihood of receiving a transfusion with a pint of blood carrying the AIDS virus is 1 in 493,000. For hepatitis C the risk is 1 in 103,000. For hepatitis B, a commoner form of hepatitis, it is about 1 in 63,000.

Boczkiewicz, Robert, Reuters, 06-26-1996.

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