Hepatitis B Core Antibody (IgM)

The Hepatitis B Core Antibody (IgM) test contains 1 test with 1 biomarker.

Brief Description: The Hepatitis B Core IgM Antibody test is a laboratory analysis used to detect the presence of IgM antibodies specific to the core antigen of the hepatitis B virus (HBV) in the bloodstream. Hepatitis B is a viral infection that primarily affects the liver and can lead to both acute and chronic disease. IgM antibodies typically signify a recent or acute infection, as they are among the first antibodies the immune system produces in response to a pathogen.

Collection Method: Blood Draw

Specimen Type: Serum

Test Preparation: No preparation required

When and Why the Hepatitis B Core IgM Antibody Test May be Ordered

Healthcare providers may order the Hepatitis B Core IgM Antibody test when a patient presents with symptoms consistent with acute hepatitis, such as jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes), fatigue, abdominal pain, dark urine, or unexplained nausea and vomiting. The test can be instrumental in distinguishing between an acute hepatitis B infection and a flare-up of chronic hepatitis B, or other forms of liver disease. Additionally, if an individual has been exposed to a known source of HBV, like a needlestick injury in a healthcare setting, this test might be ordered to ascertain if the exposure led to an acute infection.

What the Hepatitis B Core IgM Antibody Test Checks For

This specific test detects the IgM antibodies directed against the core antigen of the hepatitis B virus. If these antibodies are present, it suggests that the person has been infected with HBV relatively recently, typically within the last six months. The presence of these antibodies indicates an acute infection, which means the patient's immune system is actively responding to the virus.

Other Lab Tests Ordered Alongside the Hepatitis B Core IgM Antibody Test

When a Hepatitis B Core IgM Antibody test is ordered, it's often part of a broader evaluation of hepatitis B infection and liver health. Here are some tests commonly ordered alongside it:

  1. Hepatitis B Surface Antigen (HBsAg):

    • Purpose: To detect the presence of hepatitis B surface antigen, a protein on the surface of the virus.
    • Why Is It Ordered: To confirm current hepatitis B infection. HBsAg is the first detectable marker in the blood following infection.
  2. Hepatitis B Surface Antibody (Anti-HBs):

    • Purpose: To detect antibodies against the hepatitis B surface antigen.
    • Why Is It Ordered: To determine immunity to hepatitis B, either from vaccination or natural recovery from past infection.
  3. Hepatitis B e Antigen (HBeAg) and Hepatitis B e Antibody (Anti-HBe):

    • Purpose: To assess the replication and infectivity status of hepatitis B.
    • Why Is It Ordered: HBeAg is a marker of high infectivity and active viral replication, while anti-HBe generally indicates lower levels of virus.
  4. Liver Function Test:

    • Purpose: To assess liver health.
    • Why Is It Ordered: To evaluate liver function and damage, as hepatitis B can cause liver inflammation and injury.
  5. Complete Blood Count (CBC):

    • Purpose: To evaluate overall blood health.
    • Why Is It Ordered: To check for signs of anemia or other hematological conditions that can be associated with liver disease.
  6. Prothrombin Time (PT/INR):

    • Purpose: To assess blood clotting function.
    • Why Is It Ordered: To check for clotting abnormalities, which can occur in advanced liver disease.
  7. Alpha-fetoprotein (AFP):

    • Purpose: To measure the level of AFP, a protein that can be elevated in liver cancer.
    • Why Is It Ordered: To screen for hepatocellular carcinoma, a potential complication of chronic hepatitis B infection.

These tests, when ordered alongside a Hepatitis B Core IgM Antibody test, provide a comprehensive evaluation of hepatitis B infection status and liver health. They are crucial for accurately diagnosing acute or chronic hepatitis B infection, assessing liver damage, monitoring disease progression, and guiding treatment decisions. The specific combination of tests will depend on the individual’s clinical presentation, risk factors, and medical history.

Conditions Necessitating the Hepatitis B Core IgM Antibody Test

The Hepatitis B Core IgM Antibody test is primarily ordered when there's suspicion of an acute hepatitis B infection. This could arise from clinical symptoms suggestive of liver disease, known exposure to the virus, or during the workup of abnormal liver function tests when other causes of liver disease are being considered.

Usage of Hepatitis B Core IgM Antibody Test Results by Health Care Providers

The results of the Hepatitis B Core IgM Antibody test provide clinicians with vital insights into the nature and stage of a hepatitis B infection. A positive result indicates a recent or acute infection, guiding the healthcare provider to monitor the patient's condition, provide appropriate counseling regarding the prevention of transmission, and determine the best therapeutic approach if needed. If negative, and other hepatitis B markers are also negative, it can potentially rule out a recent infection. However, the interpretation of hepatitis B tests can be complex, and they are often considered in combination with clinical findings and other laboratory results to form a comprehensive picture of the patient's hepatitis B status.

Most Common Questions About the Hepatitis B Core IgM Antibody test:

Purpose and Indications for the Hepatitis B Core IgM Antibody Test

What is the primary purpose of the Hepatitis B Core IgM Antibody test?

The Hepatitis B Core IgM Antibody test is primarily designed to detect the presence of IgM antibodies against the hepatitis B core antigen in the blood. The presence of these antibodies indicates a recent or acute infection with hepatitis B virus (HBV).

Why would someone need to take the Hepatitis B Core IgM Antibody test?

A person may be advised to take the Hepatitis B Core IgM Antibody test if they have symptoms consistent with hepatitis, such as jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes), fatigue, abdominal pain, or nausea. Additionally, those who believe they may have been recently exposed to the hepatitis B virus, such as through unprotected sexual contact, sharing of needles, or a needlestick injury in a healthcare setting, might also need this test.

Interpreting the Results

What do the results of the Hepatitis B Core IgM Antibody test indicate?

A positive result for the Hepatitis B Core IgM Antibody test suggests that the person has an acute or recent infection with HBV. A negative result can mean that the person does not have an acute HBV infection. However, it does not rule out a chronic or past infection.

If I test positive, does that mean I will develop chronic hepatitis B?

Not necessarily. While a positive Hepatitis B Core IgM Antibody test indicates a recent or acute infection, the majority of adults who get infected with HBV will clear the virus on their own and will not develop chronic hepatitis B. However, infants and young children are more likely to develop chronic infections.

Follow-up and Treatment

What should be the next step after receiving the results of my Hepatitis B Core IgM Antibody test?

If you test positive for Hepatitis B Core IgM Antibodies, you should consult a healthcare professional, preferably a hepatologist or infectious disease specialist. They will advise on further tests, monitoring, and potential treatments.

Are there treatments available if I test positive for acute hepatitis B?

In many cases of acute hepatitis B, specific antiviral treatment may not be required, as the body often clears the infection on its own. However, it's essential to monitor liver function and get regular medical check-ups. In some instances, antiviral medications may be prescribed.

Prevention and Vaccination

Can I prevent hepatitis B infection after potential exposure?

If someone believes they have been exposed to the hepatitis B virus and have not been vaccinated previously, they should seek medical advice immediately. Hepatitis B immune globulin (HBIG) and the hepatitis B vaccine can be administered within a specific timeframe after potential exposure to prevent infection.

Is there a vaccine available to prevent hepatitis B?

Yes, a vaccine against hepatitis B is available and is the best way to prevent the infection. It is typically given as a series of shots over six months.

Disease Progression and Complications

Can hepatitis B lead to more severe liver diseases?

Yes, chronic hepatitis B infection can lead to severe liver conditions, including cirrhosis (scarring of the liver), liver failure, and liver cancer. Regular monitoring and early intervention can help manage the disease and prevent complications.

Are there other tests to monitor chronic hepatitis B?

Yes, if someone has a chronic hepatitis B infection, various tests, including liver function tests, hepatitis B DNA tests, and liver biopsies, may be recommended to monitor the health of the liver and the progression of the disease.

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

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-HBc, IgM, Hepatitis B Core Antibody IgM

Hepatitis B Core

*Process times are an estimate and are not guaranteed. The lab may need additional time due to weather, holidays, confirmation/repeat testing, or equipment maintenance.

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