Evolution of Hepatitis among Chinese General Public, Gay Community and Drug Users

Hepatitis C virus is among the culminating global sexually transmitted diseases which have proved to be problematic in treatment and control. The chances of getting Hepatitis C virus is 1%-2% in most countries. The Hepatitis C virus is transmitted through body fluids i.e. blood fluids, blood or through nonsterile medical injections.

In 1992, a survey was conducted and involved 68000 people across all 30 provinces in China. The survey revealed that the commonness of HCV (hepatitis C Virus) spreading was at 3.2% mainly through contaminated blood. After the survey, a resolution was made in 1993 to apply extreme care and use sterile products while carrying out procedures involving blood. This saw the infection of hepatitis C virus in China reduce significantly.

In 2006, a screen was done in 78746 people across 31 provinces in China. A significant reduction of the spread of hepatitis was noted with only 0.46% of the number tested having the virus. The screening revealed that drug users across China show a high chance of spreading the virus. Men engaging in sex with men, otherwise known as gay men, are also another emerging channel of the spread of hepatitis C virus in China.

Understanding the Evolution of Hepatitis C Virus

The molecular of Hepatitis virus is developing, making it hard to eradicate. The virus has a genetically diverse string classified in 7 genotypes and 67 subtypes. Following the molecular background of the virus would enable a complete wipe out of the virus globally.

The subtype 1b is most common globally. With 1a common in the US, subtype 2a and 2b dominate North America, Europe and Japan. 3a genotype is most common in India and Pakistan, genotype 4 is most often in the Middle East and Africa, genotype 6 is highly found southern China and southern Asia.

Over time, the common genotype 1b and 2a in China has evolved to co-infection as subtype 3a, 3b and 6a. 2b, 4a, 5a, 6b and 6n also slowly appearing. 1a, 3a and 3b is now common among injection drug users with HIV.

Suggested Origin of the Hepatitis C Virus in China

It is suspected that paid blood donors brought about the high spread of the hepatitis C virus. The ongoing evolution is suspected to be caused by the human migration in China. Beijing is the capital city of China and the increased movement in and out of the capital has contributed highly to the spread and evolution of hepatitis C virus.

The Study

A study was carried out by Yang Jiao et al aiming at characterizing the current molecular epidemiology of hepatitis C virus in China. The study also evaluated how HCV subtypes in Beijing, China, has evolved among different subpopulations. The study conducted from 2010- 2011 in Beijing used 10,354 people. 648 were drug users, 1296 were gay, and 8374 were the general public.

Blood samples and their background information including age, marital status and the like were taken. Enzyme Immunoassay plasma sample was screened for antibodies. The results were assessed quantitatively as a ratio of optical density.

The Findings

The study found that there is a high chance of drug users contracting hepatitis virus, with 26% who went for STD testing getting positive results for antibodies or the virus in their RNA. 16.95% of the drug users tested positive to acute hepatitis virus in China’s 15 cities. A higher prevalence of 32.2% was reported in Beijing.

According to the study, the sharing of needles among drug users and lack of condom use was a major contributor to the virus spread. Migration is also another factor found to contribute to the spread of the hepatitis virus in China.

Drug use is accompanied by reckless behavior such as multiple sex partners, failure to use protection, sharing needles/syringes and so on. As the virus and bacteria evolve a lot more needs to be done in order to treat the virus effectively and also so that we can be a step ahead of the evolving virus.

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