Morbidity and Mortality Among Community-Based People Who Inject Drugs With a High Hepatitis C and Human Immunodeficiency Virus Burden in Chennai, India

Open Forum Infect Dis. 2016 Jun 11;3(3):ofw121. doi: 10.1093/ofid/ofw121. eCollection 2016 Sep.


Background. There are limited data on clinical outcomes of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection from low- and middle-income countries. We characterize mortality and liver disease progression in a cohort of people who inject drugs (PWID) with high HCV burden. Methods. In a cohort of PWID in Chennai, India, 851 persons were observed semiannually. Information on death was obtained through verbal autopsy and liver disease progression, which was defined as an incident liver stiffness measurement of ≥12.3 kPa if it was <12.3 at baseline. Poisson and Cox regression were used to identify factors associated with mortality and disease progression, respectively. Results. At baseline, 36.9% of cases were infected with HCV, 16.7% were infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), 71.6% had no or mild stiffness, 14.9% had moderate stiffness, and 13.5% had severe stiffness or cirrhosis. Mortality was significantly higher among those with moderate (mortality rate ratio [MRR] = 2.31) and severe stiffness (MRR = 4.86) at baseline, those with ongoing substance use, those who were HIV monoinfected and not on antiretroviral therapy (ART) (MRR = 6.59), and those who were HIV/HCV coinfected regardless of ART status (MRR for no ART = 5.34; MRR for ART = 4.51). Of those with no or mild stiffness, 25.9% and 6.4% had evidence of progression to moderate and severe stiffness or cirrhosis, respectively; 38.3% of those with moderate stiffness had evidence of progression to severe stiffness or cirrhosis. Factors associated with progression included age, alcohol use, body mass index, and chronic HCV infection. Conclusions. We observed significant morbidity and mortality primarily driven by untreated HIV, HIV/HCV coinfection, and alcohol use. Even with improved access to HIV treatment, in the absence of HCV treatment, outcomes are unlikely to improve for HIV/HCV-coinfected persons.

Keywords: HIV/AIDS; hepatitis C virus; liver stiffness; low- and middle-income settings; mortality.