A study out of ICES, Lawson Health Research Institute & Western University has linked the injection of opioids to a rise in a serious heart infection among Ontarians.

The study looked the rise of infective endocarditis, a serious bacterial heart infection, among Ontarians from 2006-2015. Over that time the number of hospital admissions rose from 13.4 to 35.1 every three months.

“Rates of infective endocarditis in people who inject drugs have been increasing around the world and our study shows this is true in Ontario,” says Dr. Matthew Weir, adjunct scientist at ICES.

Infective endocarditis occurs when the inner lining of the heart becomes infected. It can be a life-threatening illness and research suggests it can be caused by sharing or re-using injection equipment, possibly through the injection of bacteria.

Reusing injection equipment allows multiple opportunities for bacterial contamination.

By analyzing Ontario health data, researchers found that the increasing risk of infective endocarditis may be linked to a rise in prescriptions of the opioid hydromorphone.

The number of hydromorphone prescriptions in Ontario increased from 16 per cent of all opioid prescriptions in 2006 to 53 per cent by 2015.

This parallels the timing for increased risk of infective endocarditis among people who inject drugs.

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