Hepatitis B virus (HBV) hepatitis is extremely common among problematic drug users (DUs). As of 2012, 47 of the 53 European countries had implemented a universal hepatitis B vaccination programme, a scenario that could radically change its spread. Even so, drug users are still one of the main groups at risk of being infected by HBV, exposing the fact that universal vaccination still has not managed to reach an optimal level of contagion protection. In order to evaluate the role of universal HBV vaccination in protecting against risk behaviour related to the use of illicit drugs, a group of 748 DUs, 511 male and 237 female, was tested for HBV markers, at their first access to public addiction clinics in the metropolitan area of Bologna, Italy. 487 were born after 1981, so they were eligible to have received HBV vaccination in adolescence or at birth; in these subjects antibodies against HBV core antigen had the significant prevalence of 6.2%. Universal HBV vaccination has shown evidence of protecting against infection in the general population. These results, amongst the first to evaluate actual protection in DUs vaccinated at birth or during adolescence, show that compulsory universal vaccination does not solve the problem of HBV transmission in the most at risk groups and that additional strategies must be studied and implemented to address this issue.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited