Hepatitis C transmission in young people who inject drugs: Insights using a dynamic model informed by state public health surveillance

Epidemics. 2019 Jun;27:86-95. doi: 10.1016/j.epidem.2019.02.003. Epub 2019 Feb 28.


Increasing injection of heroin and prescription opioids have led to increases in the incidence of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infections in US young adults since the early 2000s. How best to interrupt transmission and decrease HCV prevalence in young people who inject drugs (PWID) is uncertain. We developed an age-stratified ordinary differential equation HCV transmission model of PWID aged 15-64, which we fit to Michigan HCV surveillance data among young PWID aged 15-29. We used Latin hypercube sampling to fit to data under 10,000 plausible model parameterizations. We used the best-fitting 10% of simulations to predict the potential impact of primary (reducing injection initiation), secondary (increasing cessation, reducing injection partners, or reducing injection drug use relapse), and tertiary (HCV treatment) interventions (over the period 2017-2030) on acute and chronic HCV cases by the year 2030. Treating 3 per 100 current and former PWID per year could reduce chronic HCV by 27.3% (range: 18.7-30.3%) and acute HCV by 23.6% (range: 6.7-29.5%) by 2030 among PWID aged 15-29 if 90% are cured (i.e. achieved sustained virologic response [SVR] to treatment). Reducing the number of syringe sharing partners per year by 10% was predicted to reduce chronic HCV by 15.7% (range: 9.4-23.8%) and acute cases by 21.4% (range: 14.2-32.3%) among PWID aged 15-29 by 2030. In simulations of combinations of interventions, reducing injection initiation, syringe sharing, and relapse rates each by 10% while increasing cessation rates by 10% predicted a 27.7% (range: 18.0-39.7%) reduction in chronic HCV and a 38.4% (range: 28.3-53.3%) reduction in acute HCV. Our results highlight the need for HCV treatment among both current and former PWID and the scale up of both primary and secondary interventions to concurrently reduce HCV prevalence and incidence in Michigan.

Keywords: Hepatitis C virus; Injection drug use; Systems modeling.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Comorbidity
  • Female
  • Hepatitis C / epidemiology*
  • Hepatitis C / transmission*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Michigan / epidemiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Prevalence
  • Public Health Surveillance / methods*
  • Substance Abuse, Intravenous / epidemiology*
  • Young Adult