The US opioid epidemic is driving a spike in infectious diseases

Researchers around the country are scrambling to understand these outbreaks, but lack solid data on case numbers.

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Opioid addiction kills tens of thousands of people every year in the United States and the trend shows no signs of slowing. Now, public-health officials are worried about a surge in bacterial and viral infections linked to opioid misuse that threatens to compound the crisis.

This surge includes an unprecedented rise in bacterial infections — including those caused by Staphylococcus aureus, a bacterium that’s frequently resistant to antibiotics — and a spike in new cases of HIV and hepatitis associated with injecting opioids that risks undoing decades of progress in corralling these diseases.

Research groups around the country are working to understand, identify and treat these outbreaks. But the lack of solid data on the number of new cases, and where they’ll crop up next, as well as stigma associated with drug use that can prevent people with infections from seeking early treatment, is hindering efforts.

By: Sara Reardon/Nature News

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