[Skip to Content]
[Skip to Content Landing]
June 1983

Contaminated Street Heroin: Relationship to Clinical Infections

Author Affiliations

From the Departments of Surgery (Drs Moustoukas, Nichols, and Smith) and Psychiatry and Neurology (Dr Garey), Tulane University School of Medicine, and US Drug Enforcement Agency (Mr Egan), New Orleans.

Arch Surg. 1983;118(6):746-749. doi:10.1001/archsurg.1983.01390060064014

• Thirty-one samples of street heroin were analyzed bacteriologically and chemically as to their microbial burden and chemical adulterants (fillers). Sixty-one percent of the samples were positive for microbial growth. Many species were isolated from the positive samples with Bacillus sp (79%) and Aspergillus sp (10%) predominating. The level of contamination ranged from 1.6 ×102 to 3.7 × 104 organisms per gram. We obtained cultures from 16 addicts from the Chicago area and 21 from the New Orleans area who had soft-tissue infections related to their habit. Infections in this group of patients were usually polymicrobial; however, there was no correlation between the organisms recovered from street heroin and the addicts' infections. Most drug-related infections appear to be related to the addicts' own oral and dermal microflora. No correlation was observed between the chemical fillers and the bacteria recovered from the heroin.

(Arch Surg 1983;118:746-749)