Both localized and systemic bacterial infections are predicted by injection drug use: A prospective follow-up study in Swedish criminal justice clients

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Background Both skin and soft tissue infections (SSTI) and systemic bacterial infections are common in people who inject drugs (PWID), but data on incidence and risk factors are lacking. We compared registered diagnoses for such infections in Swedish criminal justice clients with regard to injecting drug use. Methods Baseline interview data from the Swedish Prison and Probation Service on drug use in PWID and non-PWID with problematic alcohol use were linked to follow-up data from national Swedish registers on hospital diagnoses and/or death. Associations between drug use and later diagnosis of SSTI and systemic bacterial infection (septicemia or bacterial infection of the heart, bone/joints or central nervous system) were analyzed by Cox regression. Results Incidence rates of SSTI was 28.3 per 1,000 person-years for PWID (n = 2,444) and 10.0 for non-PWID with problematic alcohol use (n = 735). Incidence rates of systemic bacterial infection was 9.1 per 1,000 person-years for PWID and 2.7 per 1,000 person-years for non-PWID. Injection drug use was associated with a significantly increased risk of bacterial infections, for main drugs heroin (SSTI: Hazard ratio [HR] 2.45; systemic infection: HR 2.75), amphetamine (SSTI: HR 1.60; systemic infection: HR 2.19), and polysubstance use (SSTI: HR 1.92; systemic infection: HR 2.01). In relation to injection use of amphetamine and polysubstance use, PWID mainly using heroin had higher risk of SSTI. Conclusions Injection drug use predicted both SSTI and systemic bacterial infection, with a particularly high risk of SSTI in PWID mainly using heroin. The results imply the need for increased attention to bacterial infections among PWID, in terms of clinical management, prevention and research.


External organisations
  • Malmö Addiction Centre, Region Skåne
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Substance Abuse
  • Infectious Medicine
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0196944
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2018 May 1
Publication categoryResearch