The following article is part of The Clinical Advisor’s conference coverage from the 2017 American Academy of Physician Assistants’ meeting in Las Vegas. Our staff will be reporting live on original research, case studies, and professional outreach and advocacy news from leading PAs in many specialty areas. Check back for the latest news from AAPA 2017. 

LAS VEGAS — Most opioid-dependent pregnant patients understand that intravenous drug use is a major transmission modality of hepatitis C virus (HCV), according to data presented at the American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA) 2017 conference.

However, many patients have misconceptions about other less common transmission routes, such as urine or saliva, and some opioid-dependent patients also mistakenly believe that a vaccine can prevent someone from contracting the virus.

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Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh sought to investigate knowledge of HCV in opioid-dependent pregnant women and compare the levels of knowledge between patients with an HCV-positive status and patients with an HCV-negative or unknown status (HCV-/UK).

The study included 172 opioid-dependent pregnant women from the Magee Women’s Hospital of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. The patients were at least 18 years of age, pregnant, and had a diagnosis of opioid dependence.

The researchers found that many patients misunderstand the transmission modalities of HCV, but there was no difference in knowledge between HCV-positive and HCV-/UK patients. In addition, 100% of HCV-positive patients and 93.1% of HCV-/UK patients knew that sharing intravenous drug equipment could affect others.

However, 52.9% of HCV-positive patients and 51.7% of HCV-/UK patients thought that sharing eating utensils could transmit HCV. When asked whether HCV could be transmitted by a toilet seat, 32.2% of HCV-/UK participants answered “yes” or “do not know.” In addition, when the participants were asked whether coughing transmits HCV to others, 24.1% did not answer correctly.

About half of HCV-positive patients (52.4%) believed that there is little chance of transmission of HCV throughout pregnancy, and 37.8% understood that breast milk cannot pass HCV to the infant.

“Because IV drug use has been increasing over the past decade, healthcare professionals must take time to educate their patients on the physiology of HCV,” the investigators concluded. “In this way, the prevalence of HCV may decrease in the upcoming years.”

AAPA 2017 continues through Friday, May 19th. Visit for more information.


  1. Wiercinski E, Krans EE, Klocke L, Turocy MJ, Rothenberger SD, Morrison PK, Beck D. Transmission knowledge of hepatitis C in opioid-dependent pregnant patients. Presented at the American Academy of Physician Assistants 2017 conference; May 15-19, 2017; Las Vegas.