Drug and Hepatitis C Virus Analysis of Residues From Used Syringes Collected at a Needle and Syringe Exchange Programme in Gothenburg, Sweden

Author: Simon Larsson Maria Andersson Moa Bergström

Theme: Epidemiology & Public Health Research Year: 2022

In Sweden, the aim of needle and syringe exchange programmes (NEPs) is to prevent the spread of
bloodborne viruses such as hepatitis C virus and HIV. In addition, improvement of the general health
of the NEP’s visitors is desired. Previous studies analysing drug content in used syringes show large
variance depending on location and time of collection. Thus, data from local NEPs is important for
adapting harm reduction measures or treatment of substance use disorders (SUDs). Furthermore,
knowledge is scarce on the levels of hepatitis C virus in residues of used syringes. The objective of
this study was to assess drug content and levels of hepatitis C virus in used syringes at the NEP of
Gothenburg, Sweden.
Syringes were collected at the NEP in Gothenburg, Sweden, during one week in November 2021.
Liquid chromatography coupled to high resolution mass spectrometry was used for drug analysis.
Hepatitis C virus was quantified by real-time PCR.
At least one drug was found in 99% of the 150 analysed syringes. Amphetamine was the most
common drug (81%) followed by buprenorphine (7%) and heroin (6%). Hepatitis C virus was
detected in 13% of syringes, with levels varying by an order of 10 000. No fentanyl was detected in
this study.
In Gothenburg, amphetamine was the most commonly injected drug by visitors to the local NEP.
Buprenorphine, used as treatment for opioid use disorder, was found in 7 % of the analysed
syringes. This raises questions on the accessibility to existing opioid substitution treatment
programmes among the visitors to the NEP. Hepatitis C virus was found in 13 % of disposed syringes,
some at very high levels, which highlights the importance of distributing a sufficient number of
syringes and needles to avoid sharing with risk of spreading the virus.
Disclosure of Interest Statement:

The authors have no conflict of interest. The study was funded by
the Public Health Agency of Sweden.

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