The inverse relationship between chronic HBV and HCV infections among injection drug users is associated with decades of age and drug use


Thomas R. O’Brien, Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, National Cancer Institute, Advanced Technology Center, Room 225A, MSC 4605 8717, Grovemont Circle, Bethesda, MD 20892-4605, USA. E-mail:


Summary.  Infection with hepatitis C virus (HCV) may suppress co-infection with hepatitis B virus (HBV) during acute or chronic HBV infection. We examined relationships between HBV infection, HCV infection and other factors among injection drug users (IDUs) with antibodies to both viruses. Participants enrolled in a cross-sectional study during 1998–2000 were considered to have been infected with HBV if they had core antibody, to be chronically infected if they had hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg), to have been infected with HCV if they had HCV antibody and to be chronically infected if they had HCV RNA. Among 1694 participants with antibody to both viruses, HBsAg prevalence decreased with increasing age among those positive for HCV RNA [from 4.55% in those 18–29 years to 1.03% in those ≥50 years old (Ptrend = 0.02)], but not among those who were negative for HCV RNA. Chronic HBV infection was less common overall among those with chronic HCV infection (odds ratio [OR], 0.25; P < 0.0001), but this inverse relationship was much stronger in the oldest (>50 years; OR = 0.15) than the youngest (18–29 years; OR = 0.81) participants (Ptrend = 0.03). Similar results were obtained when duration of injection drug use was substituted for age (Ptrend = 0.05). Among IDUs who have acquired both HBV and HCV, chronic HBV infection is much less common among those with chronic HCV infection, but this inverse relationship increases markedly with increasing years of age and injection drug use. Co-infection with HCV may enhance the resolution of HBsAg during the chronic phases of these infections.