Women who inject drugs are about 39% more likely to become infected with hepatitis C virus than men who inject drugs, research suggests.
A range of factors could account for the disparity, the researchers wrote in Clinical Infectious Diseases.
“Our findings provide important evidence that sex disparities in HCV acquisition exist independent of selected behavioral risk and demographic factors,” researcher Kimberly Page, PhD, MPH, division chief of the department of internal medicine at the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center, and colleagues wrote. “When considering HCV risk differential among women, multiple factors including biological, social and network factors — as well as differential access to prevention services — need to be considered.”
The researchers assessed data from seven of the 10 InC3 Collaborative studies of HIV and HCV among people who inject drugs (PWID), which included locations in the United States, Europe and Australia.
Page and colleagues included data from 1,868 PWID, 590 (31.58%) of whom were women. No data from participants who reported being transgender were assessed. In all, the researchers found 511 PWID with incident HCV during follow-up. Of those, 182 (31.5%) were female.
The unadjusted female-to-male HR for HCV infection was 1.38 (95% CI, 1.15-1.65). The disparity remained significant after adjustment for behavioral and demographic risk factors, the researchers said, slightly rising to 1.39 (95% CI, 1.12-1.72).
Page and colleagues cited previous studies suggesting biological and social factors that may help to explain the difference.
“All of these factors should be studied further to better understand sex-related differences in risk and to maximize prevention effects of drug treatment programs and their potential to reduce acquisition of blood-borne viruses, including HCV and HIV,” they wrote. – by Joe Green
Disclosure: Esmaeili reports no relevant financial disclosures. Please see the study for all other authors’ relevant financial disclosures.