According to Dr. Robert W. Haley, lead author of the study, a tattoo
needle carries a smaller viral load than a standard hypodermic needle
and it does not inject the virus directly into the bloodstream.
As a consequence, it takes longer for the virus to enter the
bloodstream and make its way to the liver and cause symptoms, Dr. Haley,
from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, told
In the study, Dr. Haley and Dr. R. Paul Fischer, from Presbyterian
Hospitals of Dallas, re-analyzed data collected in the early 1990s on
626 patients seeing a physician for back problems. Patients were asked
about risk factors for hepatitis C, and were screened for the virus
after the interview.
The findings are published in the May 12th issue of the Archives of
Researchers found that those who had a tattoo had a 6.5-fold higher
risk of testing positive for hepatitis C than other subjects. However,
infected subjects with tattoos were not at increased risk for acute
hepatitis symptoms compared with their peers without tattoos.
In contrast, people with a history of IV drug use were 7.2-times more
likely to be infected with the hepatitis C virus than other subjects and
5.9-times more likely to have experienced acute hepatitis symptoms.
Arch Intern Med 2003;163:1095-1098.