Mongrel Mob infiltrated by health researchers

  • 29/08/2018
Mongrel Mob infiltrated by health researchers
Photo credit: Newshub

Health researchers have infiltrated the Mongrel Mob gang in an effort to improve its members' health.

University of Otago academics have done studies with 50 Mongrel Mob members, affiliates and family, assessing the prevalence of hepatitis, their knowledge of it, and liver health risks. 

All assessments were done on neutral ground around the country. 

The Mongrel Mob is the largest gang in New Zealand. Its members are thought to be a high-risk of hepatitis C due to high incarceration rates, common intravenous drug use and uncertified tattooing - all common risk factors.

Otago Associate Professor Michael Schultz, says no hepatitis C was found in the at-risk group, but two carriers of hepatitis B were identified. Around a third very rarely visit a GP, he says.

"Knowledge of hepatitis and how it is transmitted are essential for disease prevention and management," Dr Schultz said.

On average, the participants scored 43.3 percent on a knowledge questionnaire about viral hepatitis compared to 59.4 percent in the general population.

"Knowledge about some aspects of viral hepatitis, such as risk factors, transmission, symptoms and treatment options was very low.

"Education is key to stopping hepatitis C from spreading. This study demonstrates the need for educational screening programmes to aid early detection, prevention and treatment," he says.

The researchers also identified several areas of concern about the general liver health of the group.

Participants displayed three times higher rates of liver inflammation and damage compared to the general population. 

One-fifth had significant to severe levels of liver fibrosis and cirrhosis, and exceptionally high levels of alcohol consumption.

The group was found to have more than two times higher obesity rates than the general population.

The research was published in Royal Society Open Science on Wednesday.