Infections are rising despite fewer people injecting drugs in Australia. 

Australian researchers have revealed a concerning trend: while the number of people injecting drugs in the country has decreased over the past 18 years, there is a simultaneous rise in the occurrence of acute infections among this population. 

A new study, examining the epidemiology of infections and associated morbidity and mortality among people who inject drugs, highlights the increased risk of skin and soft tissue infections, infective endocarditis, bone and joint infections, and bloodstream infections.

Despite successful efforts to reduce hepatitis C and implement needle and syringe programs, the research indicates a surge in acute infections, particularly in skin and soft tissues. 

The findings emphasise the need for targeted interventions.

The study suggests establishing low-threshold wound clinics within existing services frequented by people who inject drugs could be a pivotal strategy to mitigate the health impact. 

Such clinics would enable early treatment of infections, preventing them from escalating into more serious health issues.

The increase in acute infections among this population poses significant challenges, with people often juggling multiple conflicting priorities that can delay engagement in care. 

The implications are substantial, contributing to extended hospital stays, surgical requirements, and heightened healthcare costs across Australia.

The rise in acute infections is attributed to a complex interplay of microbiological, individual, social, and environmental factors. 

Factors such as changing patterns of antimicrobial resistance, increased crystal methamphetamine use, and an ageing population of people who inject drugs may all be contributing to this concerning uptick.

The full study is accessible here.