Hep C Test

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The following is a list of what is included in the item above. Click the test(s) below to view what biomarkers are measured along with an explanation of what the biomarker is measuring.

Also known as: Anti HCV, HCV Antibody

Hepatitis C Antibody

The Hepatitis C Antibody Test, sometimes called the Anti-HCV Test, looks for antibodies to the Hepatitis C virus. Antibodies are chemicals released into the bloodstream when someone gets infected.

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The Hep C Test test contains 1 test with 2 biomarkers.

Brief Description: The hepatitis C antibody test is a test that looks for the antibodies for hepatitis C, if they are found more testing will be performed. The additional test for a positive hepatitis C antibody result is a quantitative test that will measure the amount of the virus that is present. This can be used for treating hepatitis C. This test also may be used to rule out hepatitis C in many cases.

Also Known As: Hepatitis C Antibody Test, Anti HCV Test, HCV Antibody Test, Hep C Antibody Test

Collection Method: Blood Draw

Specimen Type: Serum

Test Preparation: No preparation required

IMPORTANT - If Hepatitis C Antibody is reactive, then Hepatitis C Viral RNA, Quantitative, Real-Time PCR will be performed at an additional charge.

When is a Hep test ordered?

The CDC recommends using an HCV antibody test to check for HCV infections in patients who:

  • Have ever injected illegal substances
  • Before July 1992, received a blood transfusion or an organ transplant.
  • Have ever received clotting factor concentrates before to 1987
  • ave ever been on long-term dialysis
  • Children born to HCV-positive women
  • Have been exposed to hepatitis C-infected blood
  • Are healthcare, emergency medical, or public safety employees who have been exposed to HCV-positive blood through needlesticks, sharps, or mucosal contact
  • Have been diagnosed with chronic liver disease
  • Have HIV and were born between 1945 and 1965, irrespective of any HCV risk factors

Since 1992, the blood supply in the United States has been regulated, and any units of blood that test positive for HCV are not used in another person. HCV infection from transfused blood is now estimated to be one case per two million transfused units.

When someone has abnormal liver panel findings, for example, or signs and symptoms of hepatitis, HCV antibody testing may be performed. It may be done as part of an acute hepatitis panel in these circumstances. Most persons who are newly infected with HCV have no symptoms or have symptoms that are so minor that they rarely induce a person to seek medical help and get tested for HCV. However, approximately 10-20% of people may have signs and symptoms such as weariness, stomach pain, decreased appetite, and jaundice.

When an antibody test is positive, an HCV RNA test or viral load is requested as follow-up testing to confirm an active infection. If the HCV antibody test is positive, some laboratories will do this test automatically.

When a person is diagnosed with HCV infection, genotyping is often requested before therapy begins to help with treatment selection.

HCV viral load testing may be ordered at the start of treatment, on a regular basis to monitor treatment response, and at the end of treatment to assess its effectiveness.

What does a Hep C test check for?

Hepatitis C is a virus that causes a liver infection that results in liver inflammation and damage. Hepatitis C tests are a collection of tests used to detect, diagnose, and track the progress of a hepatitis C virus infection. The most frequent HCV test searches for antibodies produced in response to an HCV infection in the blood. Other assays detect viral RNA, quantify the amount of viral RNA present, or define the virus's unique subtype.

Hepatitis C is one of five hepatitis viruses known to cause the disease, with the others being A, B, D, and E. HCV is spread by contact with contaminated blood, primarily through intravenous drug users sharing needles, but also through sharing blood-contaminated personal items like razors, sex with an infected person, healthcare occupational exposure, and, less commonly, from mother to baby during childbirth. HCV was commonly spread via blood transfusions before HCV tests became accessible in the 1990s.

While HCV is not as contagious as hepatitis B, no vaccination exists to prevent infection. In North America, hepatitis C infection is a common cause of chronic liver disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were about 30,500 instances of acute hepatitis C in the United States in 2014, with 2.7 to 3.9 million persons living with chronic hepatitis C.

Many people who are afflicted have no symptoms and are unaware that they are infected. The acute HCV infection may produce few to mild nonspecific symptoms, and the chronic infection may go unnoticed for a decade or two before producing enough liver damage to impair liver function.

A positive antibody test is followed with a hepatitis C RNA test, which detects virus genetic material, because the antibody test can remain positive in most patients even after they have eliminated the infection. A positive RNA test result indicates that the virus is present, that the infection has not cured, and that the person may need treatment. To help guide treatment, the hepatitis C genotyping test establishes which strain of virus is present.

A liver panel, which is a collection of tests used to examine the health of the liver, can also be ordered by healthcare providers.

Lab tests often ordered with a Hep C test:

When this testing is ordered, it's often part of a broader evaluation of liver health and infectious disease status. Here are some tests commonly ordered alongside it:

  1. Liver Function Test:

    • Purpose: To assess liver health and function.
    • Why Is It Ordered: Hepatitis C can cause liver inflammation and damage, leading to elevated liver enzyme levels. These tests help evaluate the extent of liver damage.
  2. Hepatitis B Panel:

    • Purpose: To test for hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection.
    • Why Is It Ordered: Co-infection with HBV and HCV is possible and can influence disease management and treatment decisions.
  3. Complete Blood Count (CBC):

    • Purpose: Provides a broad picture of overall blood health.
    • Why Is It Ordered: To assess general health status and detect signs of anemia or other blood cell abnormalities, which can occur in chronic liver disease.
  4. Prothrombin Time (PT/INR):

    • Purpose: To assess blood clotting function.
    • Why Is It Ordered: Liver damage can affect the production of clotting factors, so this test is important in assessing liver function.
  5. Alpha-Fetoprotein (AFP):

    • Purpose: To screen for liver cancer.
    • Why Is It Ordered: Chronic HCV infection increases the risk of developing liver cancer. AFP is a tumor marker used in screening.

These tests, when ordered alongside a Hepatitis C Antibody with Reflex to HCV RNA Quantitative PCR test, provide a comprehensive view of an individual’s hepatitis C status and overall liver health. They are crucial for confirming the diagnosis, assessing the severity of liver disease, evaluating co-infections, and planning effective treatment. The specific combination of tests will depend on the individual’s risk factors, symptoms, and the results of initial screenings.

Conditions where a Hep C test is recommended:

  • Hepatitis A
  • Hepatitis B
  • Hepatitis C
  • HIV
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases
  • Liver Disease
  • Hepatitis

How does my health care provider use a Hep C test?

Hepatitis C tests are used to detect and diagnose hepatitis C virus infection, as well as to advise therapy and/or monitor the course of treatment.

An HCV antibody test is performed to determine whether or not you have been exposed to the virus before. It looks for antibodies to the virus, which indicates HCV infection. This test will not tell you if you have an active or prior HCV infection. There is some evidence that a "weakly positive" test could be a false positive. All positive antibody tests should be followed by an HCV RNA test, which identifies viral RNA in the blood to assess whether or not the person has a current infection, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The HCV antibody test can be used to establish which of the most prevalent hepatitis viruses is causing a person's symptoms as part of an acute viral hepatitis panel.

The tests listed below can help identify an infection and advise and monitor treatment:

HCV RNA tests: A quantitative HCV RNA test detects and counts viral RNA particles in the blood. This test can be used to confirm the virus's presence and diagnose a live infection. Viral load assays are also used before and throughout treatment to compare the amount of virus present before and after treatment to measure treatment response.

HCV RNA, Qualitative is used to determine whether an infection is present or past. If any HCV viral RNA is identified, the result is reported as "positive" or "detected"; otherwise, the result is ""negative"" or "not detected." This test is no longer often used.

To help guide treatment, viral genotyping is done to detect the kind, or genotype, of HCV present. HCV has five basic kinds and more than 50 subtypes; the most common, genotype 1, accounts for around 75% of infections in the United States. The medications chosen for treatment are influenced by the genotype of HCV infection.

What do my Hep C test results mean?

Antibody tests for HCV are usually reported as "positive" or "negative."

If the virus is present, the results of HCV viral load tests are provided as a number. The result is frequently reported as "negative" or "not found" if no virus is present or if the amount of virus is too small to detect.

The table below shows how the HCV screening and follow-up tests are interpreted. If the HCV antibody test is positive, the person tested is infected or has likely been infected with hepatitis C at some point. If the HCV RNA test comes back positive, the person is currently infected. If no HCV viral RNA is found, the person either does not have an active infection or has very low levels of the virus.

Antibody to HCV HCV RNA Negative for HCV infection There is no infection or it is too soon after exposure for the test to be reliable; if suspicion persists, retesting at a later period may be necessary.

Positive or inconclusive Negative Past infection or no illness; if necessary, additional tests

Positive, Negative, or Indeterminate Infection currently present

An HCV viral load can be used to determine whether or not treatment is working for monitoring purposes. A high or increasing viral load could indicate that treatment isn't working, whereas a low, declining, or undetectable viral load could indicate that it is.

Successful treatment reduces viral load by 99 percent or more shortly after starting treatment and frequently results in undetectable viral load when treatment is finished. An undetectable viral load in a treated person's blood 12 weeks after the conclusion of treatment indicates that the HCV infection has responded to therapy, according to guidelines from the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases and the Infectious Disease Society of America.

The findings of the HCV genotype test determine the strain of HCV a person has and aid in treatment selection and duration. Treatment options vary depending on a number of criteria, including the person's HCV genotype and liver condition.

We advise having your results reviewed by a licensed medical healthcare professional for proper interpretation of your results.

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