Rising rates of fatal heart infection in young adults linked to opioid use

New York City-based Columbia University Irving Medical Center researchers found the number of young adults dying from fatal heart infection has doubled in the last two decades.

The study, published in the Journal of Internal Medicine on Nov. 9, found rates of infective endocarditis—a bacterial infection in the heart or blood vessels—have decreased among the entire U.S. population but doubled for people aged 15-44. 

"The number of young people in the U.S. who die of infective endocarditis is increasing, and the ongoing opioid epidemic, specifically injectable drug abuse, appears to be a significant cause," author Polydoros Kampaktsis, MD, PhD, of the Columbia University Irving Medical Center, said in a press release

Here are four other findings:

  1. Mortality rates of infective endocarditis (IE) for young U.S. residents reached almost 20 percent and mortality rates for people aged 15-34 have tripled from 0.1 to 0.3 since 1999.

  2. Young people comprise 10 percent of all IE deaths in 2020.

  3. The percent of young people who injected drugs and died of IE increased from 10.2 percent in 1999 to 19.5 percent in 2020.

  4. White Americans comprised almost 90 percent of all young people who inject drugs that died of the infection in 2020.

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