HCV ab or Hepatitis C Antibody
When hepatitis C virus (HCV) enters the body, your body reacts to the virus infection. Just like a cold or a flu virus.
Our body releases proteins to fight the virus, these proteins are called antibodies.
Once HCV is present in our body, it will always show that you have an antibody for hepatitis C virus, even after you successfully complete your treatment.
What is the HCV ab test?
HCV ab test is a simple diagnosis for the hepatitis C virus. If the HCV ab test comes back negative, it means you have not been previously been exposed to the virus.
If the HCV ab test comes back positive, you have been exposed to the virus.
The next step in the procedure is to take the HCV RNA PCR test.
What next if HCV ab is positive?
Your doctor will ask you to take a couple more tests, which is the normal procedure.
The first test is the HCV RNA PCR (genetic material like DNA) test. There are two types of HCV RNA PCR tests, they are:
- Qualitative (is the hepatitis C virus present in the blood sample)
- Quantitative (if hepatitis C virus is present, how much of it is present)
PCR (polymerase chain reaction) is the process of taking genetic material and duplicating many times over. This allows to take a small sample of blood and duplicate it millions of times over for multiple testing.
If the qualitative test comes back without HCV present, then previously there was an exposure to the virus but now its not detectable.
If the exposure was recent (a few weeks), it may take up to 6 months for it to be detected. A retest should be done after 6 months.
If the quantitative test (HCV viral load test) shows how much HCV is in the blood sample.
If its less than 10 IU/L then most probably there is no active hepatitis C infection.
If it is above 800,000 IU/L then it is an active hepatitis C infection.
Take these viral load test results with a grain of salt, until a consulting physician gives their opinion.Viral loads test numbers should be discussed with a doctor
There is a lot of debate among scientists, researchers and doctors what is the HCV RNA range for an active infection.
Its important to consult with a doctor to really understand the HCV RNA PCR test results.
HCV RNA PCR Test and Genotypes
As mentioned earlier HCV is hepatitis C virus, RNA is the genetic material of the HCV virus and PCR is duplication of the virus many times over for testing purposes.
Every individual with a hepatitis C infection will have a genetic marker called the genotype. The genotype of the virus will never change.
There are 6 genotypes of hepatitis C
The genotype will let the doctor know exactly which treatment is best recommended to eliminate the virus infection.
Before starting treatment, the doctor will recommend that you take a LFT.
LFT (Liver Function Test)
LFT is a simple blood test to determine how your liver enzymes are working and the overall health of your liver.