Injection site infections of injection drug users in Vancouver's downtown eastside

In addition to other serious health risks experienced by Canada’s estimated 125,000 injection drug users, individuals who inject drugs commonly develop infections at the site of injection, such as abscesses and cellulitis (infection of the skin’s deeper layers). Previous studies have shown these injection site infections account for the majority of admissions to emergency departments and hospital beds in Vancouver. Treatment is inefficient and costly, and these infections can lead to more severe complications, including bone infection, amputation and death. Surprisingly, there has been little research on preventive measures. Now, Elisa Lloyd-Smith is studying which individuals are at increased risk for injection site infections, and what preventive measures and treatments are most effective. She is also assessing whether the supervised injection facility in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside community, the first in North America, reduces hospitalizations due to injection site infections. This is the first study anywhere in the world to evaluate the impact of a safe injection site on infection rates. Elisa’s research will identify preventive measures to reduce the incidence of injection site infections, improve health outcomes among injection drug users, and reduce health care costs.