Global genotype distribution of hepatitis C viral infection among people who inject drugs

J Hepatol. 2016 Dec;65(6):1094-1103. doi: 10.1016/j.jhep.2016.07.042. Epub 2016 Aug 9.


Background & aims: Hepatitis C viral infection (HCV) after injection drug use is very prevalent. The kind of genotype determines the response to treatment. However, no systematic review update on the global genotype distribution of HCV in people who inject drugs (PWID) is currently available.

Methods: A systematic review was performed by using the keywords: Genotype, Hepatitis C, Injection drug user/Intravenous drug user/Substance user/ PWID, Name of countries in Pubmed, Embase and PsycINFO. The results were compared with the review of Gower et al. in 2014, concerning the distribution of HCV genotypes in the general HCV population.

Results: Using these keywords, 132 studies in 48 countries (from 1995 to 2015) were collected. After grading these results, the data of 48 studies were used to determine the distribution of genotypes in PWID. Genotype 1 is the most prevalent genotype all over the world in PWID. In Europe, genotypes 1, 3 and 4 are highly prevalent. In North and South America and in Australia genotype 1 and 3 are most prevalent. In Asia genotype 2 and 6, and Africa genotype 1a and 4 are mostly observed. Overall, the most important differences comparing with the general population are a lower prevalence of genotype 1b in the PWID population and higher prevalence of genotype 1a and 3.

Conclusions: There is a different prevalence of genotype distribution in PWID than in the general population. Genotype 3 is especially highly prevalent in the Western countries.

Lay summary: Hepatitis C viral infection after injection drug use is very prevalent. The most important genotype causing HCV infection in PWID globally is genotype 1, as is the case in the general population, but also genotype 3 is highly prevalent in PWID. Genotype 4 is most prevalent in Africa, spreading into Europe, whereas genotype 2 and 6 are more located in Asia. The most important difference comparing to the general population are generally lower prevalence of genotype 1b, and higher prevalence of genotype 1a and 3 in PWID. As the genotype nowadays still determines the treatment, and as there is a different genotype distribution than in the general population, it is important to identify the genotype also in PWID.

Keywords: Genotype; Hepatitis C; PWID; People who inject drugs; Systematic review.

MeSH terms

  • Africa
  • Drug Users
  • Europe
  • Genotype
  • Hepatitis C*
  • Humans
  • Substance Abuse, Intravenous