Needlestick glossary

Chronic Hepatitis C:

Hepatitis C is chronic when the body can’t get rid of the hepatitis C virus. Although some people clear the virus from their bodies in a few months, most hepatitis C infections become chronic. Without treatment, chronic hepatitis C can cause scarring of the liver, called cirrhosis; liver cancer; and liver failure.

Hepatitis B (Hep B, HBV):

Hepatitis B is a serious disease caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV). Infection with this virus can cause scarring of the liver, liver failure, liver cancer and even death.

Hepatitis B is spread by infected blood and other bodily fluids such as semen, vaginal secretions, saliva, open sores and breast milk.

Hepatitis C (Hep C, HCV):

Hepatitis C is a liver disease. Hepatitis * means inflammation of the liver. It is caused by a blood-borne virus. Hepatitis C is a virus which is carried in the bloodstream to the liver. It can then affect and damage your liver. However, this virus can also affect other parts of the body, including the digestive system, the immune system and the brain.


Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a lentivirus (a member of the retrovirus family) that causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS),[1][2] a condition in humans in which progressive failure of the immune system allows life-threatening opportunistic infections and cancers to thrive.

Immunoglobulin (IG):

Immunoglobulins are an important part of the immune system. When plasma cells are exposed to a foreign substance, or antigen, they have the unique ability to create and excrete antibodies, or immunoglobulins.


Interferons (IFNs) are proteins made and released by host cells in response to the presence of pathogens such as viruses, bacteria, parasites or tumor cells. They allow for communication between cells to trigger the protective defenses of the immune system that eradicate pathogens or tumors.

Needlestick (needle stick, pinstick):

This is the name for any accidental injury caused by a needle or needle-like, or sharp instrument (such as surgical scalpels)

Percutaneous (transcutaneous, transdermic):

Through the skin. Denoting the passage of substances through unbroken skin, as in absorption by inunction; also passage through the skin by needle puncture, including introduction of wires and catheters by Seldinger technique.

Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP):

Prophylaxis is the prevention of a disease. So PEP is the preventative measures taken after a needlestick injury to prevent disease. In the case of infection, Post Exposure Prophylaxis is a course of antiretroviral drugs intended to reduce the risk of Seroconversion after accidents such as a needle stick injury where there is high risk of exposure to HIV. For further information please click here


an inhaled antiviral agent that may be used to treat serious virus infections (brand names: Copegus, Rebetol, Ribasphere, Vilona, and Virazole)


in the context of needlestick injuries this term can be used to refer to the process of becoming HIV positive. Properly it means the development of detectable specific antibodies to microorganisms in the blood serum as a result of infection or immunization.

Tetanus (lockjaw):

A serious infection caused by Clostridium tetani bacteria which produce a toxin that affects the brain and nervous system. The wound may go unnoticed and the infection may not seem severe, but the bacteria release a poison called a neurotoxin that attacks the nervous system and causes problems such as muscle spasm. It is marked by rigidity and spasms of the voluntary muscles and may be fatal if not treated.


The information given in this glossary is not provided as a substitute for qualified medical or legal advice. The publisher is not responsible (as a matter of product liability, negligence or otherwise) for any injury resulting from any material contained herein. This publication contains information relating to general principles of medical care which should not be construed as specific instructions for individual patients. The publisher gives no undertaking as to its accuracy and is not qualified to give medical advice , you should always seek medical advice from a physician or your doctor.