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Deaths from bacterial infections in heart on rise among people who inject drugs: Study

by Vaishali Sharma

A bacterial infection of the heart or blood arteries affects 40,000-50,000 people in the United States each year, with a 30% death rate after one year. People who inject drugs (PWID) are more likely to be younger and to develop infected endocarditis as a result of microbes entering the circulation (IE).

Indeed, the current opioid crisis is most likely to account for the surge in IE cases among younger patients and PWID. According to a new study published in the Journal of Internal Medicine, the risk of dying from infected endocarditis has grown by a factor of two among young US residents between the ages of 15 and 44 during the last two decades.

Furthermore, PWID among young people who die from IE has risen to almost 20%. Investigators reviewed death certificate data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and determined the following rates per 100,000 individuals (with age-adjusted rates):

The entire US population’s IE death rate declined from 2.1 in 1999 to 1.8 in 2020, however young US citizens’ mortality rates more than doubled over that time, rising from 0.3 in 1999 to 0.6 in 2020.

The mortality rate among adults aged 15 to 34 increased from 0.1 to 0.3.

Young people were responsible for 10% of all IE fatalities in 2020, up from 6.8% in 1999.

The percentage of PWID among all patients who died from IE grew from 1.1 per cent in 1999 to 3.0per cent in 2020; the percentage among young people also increased, from 10.2 per cent in 1999 to 19.5 per cent in 2020.

“The number of young people in the US who die of infective endocarditis is increasing, and the ongoin¬†opioid epidemic, specifically injectable drug abuse, appears to be a significant cause,” said corresponding author Polydoros Kampaktsis, MD, PhD, of the Columbia University Irving Medical Center.

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