Add another hardship to the many already triggered by the opioid epidemic: More donated organs infected with the hepatitis C virus. “The ongoing U.S. opioid crisis has resulted in an increase in drug overdose deaths and acute hepatitis C virus infections, with young persons (who might be eligible organ donors) most affected,” explained a team led by Dr. Winston Abara. He’s a hepatitis researcher at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Between 2010 and 2017, the number of organs obtained from so-called “increased risk” donors — people at risk of carrying hepatitis due to behaviors such as drug abuse — tripled, the new study found.
The number of organs obtained from people who died from “drug intoxication” also tripled, from just over 4 percent in 2010 to just over 13 percent by 2017, the CDC researchers said. Organ donor deaths tied to injected drugs (such as heroin), specifically, rose fivefold over the same period, they added. All of this is cause for concern, since tainted needles are a prime conduit for infection with hepatitis C, which can trigger potentially fatal liver disease over time.