The status of hepatitis C virus infection among people who inject drugs in the Middle East and North Africa

Sarwat Mahmud, Ghina R. Mumtaz, Hiam Chemaitelly, Zaina Al Kanaani, Silva P. Kouyoumjian, Joumana G. Hermez, Laith J. Abu-Raddad

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

1 Citation (Scopus)


Background and aims: People who inject drugs (PWID) are a key population at high risk of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection. The aim of this study was to delineate the epidemiology of HCV in PWID in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Methods: Syntheses of data were conducted on the standardized and systematically assembled databases of the MENA HCV Epidemiology Synthesis Project, 1989–2018. Random-effects meta-analyses and meta-regressions were performed. Meta-regression variables included country, study site, year of data collection and year of publication [to assess trends in HCV antibody prevalence over time], sample size and sampling methodology. Numbers of chronically infected PWID across MENA were estimated. The Shannon Diversity Index was calculated to assess genotype diversity. Results: Based on 118 HCV antibody prevalence measures, the pooled mean prevalence in PWID for all MENA was 49.3% [95% confidence interval (CI) = 44.4–54.1%]. The country-specific pooled mean ranged from 21.7% (95% CI = 4.9–38.6%) in Tunisia to 94.2% (95% CI = 90.8–96.7%) in Libya. An estimated 221 704 PWID were chronically infected, with the largest numbers found in Iran at 68 526 and in Pakistan at 46 554. There was no statistically significant evidence for a decline in HCV antibody prevalence over time. Genotype diversity was moderate (Shannon Diversity Index of 1.01 out of 1.95; 52.1%). The pooled mean percentage for each HCV genotype was highest in genotype 3 (42.7%) and in genotype 1 (35.9%). Conclusion: Half of people who inject drugs in the Middle East and North Africa appear to have ever been infected with hepatitis C virus, but there are large variations in antibody prevalence among countries. In addition to > 200 000 chronically infected current people who inject drugs, there is an unknown number of people who no longer inject drugs who may have acquired hepatitis C virus during past injecting drug use. Harm reduction services must be expanded, and innovative strategies need to be employed to ensure accessibility to hepatitis C virus testing and treatment.

Original languageEnglish
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 1 Jan 2020



  • Drug injection
  • HCV
  • MENA
  • epidemiology
  • genotype
  • infection
  • prevalence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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