Test Detail
Overview
Interpreting Results
FAQ's

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Written by
Dr. Betina Chandolia
BDS, MDS - Oral Pathology and Microbiology
Reviewed by
Dr. Ashish Ranjan
MBBS, MD (Pharmacology)
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Hepatitis C Virus Total Antibody

(HCV Ab)
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Hepatitis C Virus Total Antibody
You need to provide
Blood
This test is for
Male, Female
Test Preparation
  1. No special preparation required

Overview


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?

  1. For screening of hepatitis C infection when you have risk factors for HCV infection
  2. 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
  3.  

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


Interpretations

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 Antibody

HCV RNA test

Interpretation

Negative

 

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

Negative

Past infection or no infection (false positive screen); additional tests may be required

Positive or Weak or Indeterminate

Positive

Current infection

Answers to Patient Concerns & Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about HCV Ab


Frequently Asked Questions about Hepatitis C Virus Total Antibody

Q. Who should get screened for hepatitis C?
Screening for HCV infections with an HCV antibody test should be done in the following: · Injection drug users (past or present), shared needles · Recipient of blood or blood components (red cells, platelets, and fresh frozen plasma) · Recipient of blood from an HCV-positive donor · Persons with following associated conditions: o HIV infection o Haemophilia o Those who have been on hemodialysis o Those with unexplained abnormal aminotransferase levels. · Children born to HCV-infected mothers · Healthcare workers after a needle stick injury or mucosal exposure to HCV-positive blood · Current sexual partners of HCV-infected persons · Evidence of chronic liver disease · HCV antibody testing can be prescribed by your doctor in case of abnormal results on a liver panel, for example in the case of signs and symptoms associated with hepatitis seen in a patient .
Q. What are the other tests which may be required along with HCV antibody testing?
Along with HCV antibody testing, other tests may be required to further diagnose a current infection, to monitor treatment, and to check the health of the liver. Tests to diagnose a current infection and monitor treatment: HCV RNA tests: HCV RNA test can be quantitative (HCV viral load) and qualitative (presence or absence of HCV RNA). Quantitative HCV RNA detects and measures the number of viral RNA particles in the blood. Whereas, qualitative HCV RNA is used to confirm the presence of the virus and diagnose an active infection. Viral load tests are also used before and during treatment to help determine response to therapy by comparing the amount of virus before and during treatment. Viral genotyping is used to find the kind, or genotype, of the HCV present to help guide treatment. There are 5 major types of HCV and more than 50 subtypes identified. Among them, the most common is genotype 1. The drugs selected for treatment depends on the genotype of HCV infecting a person. Tests to determine well-being of liver: Liver tests such as ALT and AST are used to indicate ongoing liver injury. People who have normal AST and ALT but are infected with hepatitis C virus (HCV), probably have very mild liver disease and may not need treatment. Other tests can be used to check the functioning of the liver such as albumin, prothrombin time, and bilirubin. Generally, the results of these tests are normal unless the person has developed cirrhosis. In some cases, a liver biopsy may be performed to determine the severity of liver damage.
Q. How does hepatitis C spread?
Mainly, Hepatitis C is spread by exposure to contaminated/infected blood. The most common form of exposure is by sharing of needles mostly during illicit drug use. Other routes of transmission include occupational exposure of healthcare workers to used needles (needle stick injury) or other sharp objects. Along with that, the infection can spread by the use of contaminated equipment for body piercing and tattooing, through sexual activity (less common) that results in tissue tears, and from an infected mother to baby during childbirth.
Q. What is chronic hepatitis C?
Chronic hepatitis C refers to the condition when HCV RNA has stayed in the blood for at least 6 months after the onset of acute infection. The risk of progression of acute infection to chronic HCV infection include: Age at the time of infection (more if infection occurs at age >25 years) Gender (males > females) Ethnicity (higher in Africans than in Caucasians and Hispanic whites) Coinfection with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and Hepatitis B virus Concomitant alcohol consumption Comorbid conditions like cancer, immunosuppression, insulin resistance, non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), obesity, etc.
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