Skin and soft tissue infections (SSTI) are a common but preventable cause of morbidity and mortality among people who inject drugs (PWID). They can be severe, and hospitalisations of PWID with SSTI are rising. The most common SSTI presentations are abscesses and cellulitis.
We used data from Care & Prevent, a cross-sectional community survey of PWID in London. We reported the lifetime prevalence of SSTI, severity of infections, key risk factors, and associated sequelae. Pictorial questions were used to assess SSTI severity.
We recruited 455 PWID. SSTI lifetime prevalence was high: 64% reported an abscess and/or cellulitis. Over one-third (37%) reported a severe infection, 137 (47%) reported hospitalisation. SSTIrisk factors were: aged 35+ years, injecting once or more times a day, subcutaneous or intra-muscular injections, and making four or more attempts to achieve an injection. Those who reported having other health conditions were at higher odds of having an abscess or cellulitis, with risk tending to increase with number of reported conditions. Half (46%) employed self-care for their worst SSTI, and 43% waited for ten or more days before seeking medical care or not seeking medical care at all.
Abscess and cellulitis are very common among PWID in London. We corroborate findings indicating SSTIs are associated with risks, e.g. venous access problems, as well as other co-morbid conditions: septicaemia, endocarditis, DVT, and kidney disease. These co-morbidities may impact SSTIs severity and outcomes. Delayed healthcare seeking potentially exacerbates infection severity, which in turn increases poorer health outcomes and complications.