Hepatitis C Virus Total Antibody
What is HCV Ab?
Hepatitis C virus total antibody test is performed to detect and diagnose hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection. It is also used to monitor the progress of treatment suggested for HCV. HCV causes an infection of the liver that is characterized by liver inflammation and damage. The most common test for HCV detects antibodies in the blood that are produced to counter an HCV infection. However, other tests detect the presence of viral RNA, the amount of viral RNA present, or determine the specific subtype of the virus.
Why is HCV Ab done?
- For screening of hepatitis C infection when you have risk factors for HCV infection
- For diagnosis of hepatitis C when you may have been exposed to the hepatitis C virus such as through contact with infected blood, or have symptoms associated with liver disease
What does HCV Ab Measure?
Hepatitis C is one of the five hepatitis viruses identified so far, including A, B, D, and E, that are known to cause the disease. HCV causes liver inflammation and damage. It is spread by exposure to contaminated blood, sharing of needles by intravenous drug users, sharing personal items contaminated by blood such as razors, through sex with an infected person, via healthcare occupational exposure, and, less commonly, from mother to baby during childbirth.
It has been observed that most infected people do not see any symptoms (asymptomatic) which makes them unaware of the condition. The acute HCV infection may cause few to mild nonspecific symptoms. This chronic infection may not show any symptoms for a decade or two before causing sufficient liver damage to affect liver function.
Hepatitis C antibody tests are used to screen individuals with risk factors, people who have symptoms associated with hepatitis or liver disease, or those who have been exposed to the virus.
It is possible that the antibody test remains positive even after clearing the infection. So to further diagnose, the test is followed by a hepatitis C RNA test. This test detects the genetic material of the virus. A positive result on the RNA test may indicate the virus is present, the infection has not resolved, and the requirement of treatment.
Many times, a liver panel test is also prescribed by the physician which will include a hepatitis C test to help assess the health of the liver.
Interpreting HCV Ab results
HCV antibody test can be reported as "positive" or "negative." In general, if the HCV antibody test is positive, it means that the individual tested is infected or has likely been infected at some time with hepatitis C. If the HCV RNA test is positive, then the person has a current infection. However, if no HCV viral RNA is detected, then the person either does not have an active infection or the virus present is very low in numbers.
HCV RNA test
No infection or too early after exposure for the test to be accurate; if suspicion remains high, retest at a later time may be required.
Positive or Indeterminate
Past infection or no infection (false positive screen); additional tests may be required
Positive or Weak or Indeterminate