Cocaine Snorting Linked to HCV
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
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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