Hepatitis C Viral Load, What does it mean?
Hepatitis C virus is measured by the number of viruses that is in your blood sample when you go for a hepatitis C viral load test.
The virus is measured by IU/L, which means International Units per liter. IU/ml, International Units per milliliter is another way your blood is measured.
An example of a viral load test results 1,381,230 IU/L
A doctor will tell you that this viral load of 1,381,230 is considered a “high viral load”. Some people have viral loads that are in the millions, 5 million and above.
High viral load is anything above 800,000 IU/L according to WebMd.
After the right treatment the number comes low or is even undetectable.
However, there is a dispute among scientists with these numbers.
Some scientists believe anything above 400,000 IU/L is high and all readings below are low.
The viral load test HCV range is 15 to 100,000,000 IU/L. There is no normal range. There is a range of how many viruses you have in your blood sample at the time of your test.
When a viral load is taken it is used to determine your benchmark before you start treatment.
So the doctor can compare your viral load test before, during and after treatment.
After two weeks to four weeks of treatment, your doctor may ask you for a viral load test.
The results act as a guideline and lets your doctor know how your body is reacting to the treatment.
Viral loads can increase when you start your treatment but it also can decrease. It depends on your body, medical history and previous HCV treatments you have undergone.
“It is important to note that just because your viral load increases or decreases really does not mean anything. Your genetics and several other biological factors play in to viral load changes.”–Dr. John Paterson, CDC Hepatologist
Sustained Virological Response (SVR)
Only after your finish your treatment your doctor can say if you have cleared the virus by examining the viral load. If the viral load is low after 12 weeks, this is called a sustained virological response or SVR 12. If its after 24 weeks, then its called SVR 24.
Some hepatitis C patients will still show that the virus is detectable but can be in small numbers.
For other patients, the viral load will be less than 8 IU/L or 80 IU/ml which means
Both sets of patients have most probably have cleared the virus. Your doctor will have you undergo further testing after a few weeks to a few months, to ensure you have “cleared” the virus.
Once you have a HCV infection, your body will have a record of the infection. That record’s biological name is called HCV antibody.
HCV antibody means you have been exposed to the virus and after treatment the viral load is very low or undetectable.
There is another factor to consider and that is hepatitis C (HCV) RNA (ribonucleic acid) test.
Hepatitis C RNA Quantitative Test
The HCV RNA quantitative test looks at the strain or what is called the genotype of the hepatitis C virus.
Everyone that has hepatitis C has only one genotype of the virus.
Its kind of like your blood type, A, B, AB, or O.
The most common hepatitis C genotypes in the US are:
- Genotype 1
- Genotype 2
- Genotype 3
Around the world there are 6 different types of hepatitis C genotypes: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6.
The most common genotypes in the US can be broken down to the following categories:
- Genotype 1a or 1b
- Genotype 2a or 2b or 2c
- Genotype 3a or 3b
When you get an HCV RNA test, you will know which genotype you have and it never changes.
Once you know the genotype, your doctor will prescribe the right hepatitis C treatment.