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As few as 15 per cent of injecting drug misusers have been vaccinated against hepatitis B and over a quarter are infected with the virus, a Health Protection Agency study suggests.

The authors called for greater 'opportunistic targeting' of high-risk groups after finding nearly half of misusers admitted to sharing syringes in the past month while only 12 per cent were in drug treatment programmes.

Lead author Dr Noel Craine, researcher at the National Public Health Service for Wales, said: 'Serious efforts are needed to increase vaccination coverage of this high-risk group.' He urged health professionals to offer the vaccine opportunistically in a wider range of health care settings.

The research, based in north-west Wales, identified 153 injecting drug users and found 27 per cent tested positive for hepatitis B and 23 per cent for hepatitis C. Sixteen per cent tested positive for both.

Data from the unlinked anonymous prevalence monitoring programme suggested the prevalence of hepatitis in England might be even higher, according to the study, published in Communicable Disease and Public Health (September).

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