Hepatitis C May be Transmitted Through Use of Contaminated ‘Household Items,’ Research Shows
Hepatitis C may be spread through toothbrushes and other "common household items," according to research presented during an annual meeting of gastroenterologists, Reuters Health reports. A study presented at Digestive Disease Week examined 30 individuals infected with hepatitis C to see whether the virus was present on their used toothbrushes. Researchers collected saliva samples from volunteers before and after they brushed their teeth. After brushing, toothbrushes were rinsed in salt water and inspected for the presence of hepatitis C genetic material. The scientists discovered that 30% of volunteers' saliva tested positive for hepatitis C before brushing and 38% tested positive after brushing. In addition, 40% of the toothbrush rinsing water tested positive for hepatitis C, and the participants whose water tested positive "were not significantly different in their oral hygiene or disease severity" than patients whose water did not contain the virus. Study co-author Dr. Claus Hellerbrand of the internal medicine department at the University of Regensburg in Germany said that it is not known whether the traces of the virus on the toothbrush could infect another individual, but noted that infection "was not impossible." He said that it is probably difficult to transmit the virus via toothbrush but urged people to be careful with household objects. "This study strengthens the evidence to advise patients with hepatitis C to not share possibly infected household objects," Hellerbrand said. The study authors said that certain "publicly used objects" such as barbershop razors should be regulated by health officials. Although hepatitis C is most often transmitted through blood and needles, between 10% and 40% of individuals diagnosed with hepatitis C have "no obvious risk factor or known mechanism" for contracting the disease (Schorr, Reuters Health, 5/22).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.