Does bleach disinfection of syringes protect against hepatitis C infection among young adult injection drug users?

Epidemiology. 2002 Nov;13(6):738-41. doi: 10.1097/00001648-200211000-00023.


Background: Hepatitis C virus (HCV) has emerged as a major public health problem among injection drug users. In this analysis we examine whether disinfection of syringes with bleach has a potentially protective effect on anti-HCV seroconversion.

Methods: We conducted a nested case-control study comparing 78 anti-HCV seroconverters with 390 persistently anti-HCV seronegative injection drug users. These data come from the Second Collaborative Injection Drug Users Study, a prospective cohort study that recruited injection drug users from five U.S. cities between 1997 and 1999. We used conditional logistic regression to determine the effect of bleach disinfection of syringes on anti-HCV seroconversion.

Results: Participants who reported using bleach all the time had an odds ratio (OR) for anti-HCV seroconversion of 0.35 (95% confidence interval = 0.08-1.62), whereas those reporting bleach use only some of the time had an odds ratio of 0.76 (0.21-2.70), when compared with those reporting no bleach use.

Conclusions: These results suggest that bleach disinfection of syringes, although not a substitute for use of sterile needles or cessation of injection, may help to prevent HCV infection among injection drug users.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Disinfection*
  • Female
  • Hepatitis C / epidemiology
  • Hepatitis C / prevention & control*
  • Hepatitis C / transmission*
  • Hepatitis C Antibodies / blood
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Needle Sharing
  • Odds Ratio
  • Substance Abuse, Intravenous / blood
  • Substance Abuse, Intravenous / complications*
  • Syringes / adverse effects*
  • United States


  • Hepatitis C Antibodies