What is HCV Ab?
Hepatitis C virus total antibody test is performed to detect and diagnose hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection. This virus commonly infects the liver and with time becomes chronic and may cause liver damage and liver failure. This test detects the antibodies produced against HCV. Hepatitis C antibody tests are used to screen individuals with risk factors, people who have symptoms associated with hepatitis, or those who have been exposed to the virus.
In case of a reactive or positive antibody test, an additional test is conducted to check if you currently have hepatitis C infection. However, if no HCV is detected, then the person does not have an active infection.
Why is HCV Ab done?
For screening of hepatitis C infection when you have risk factors for HCV infection
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
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.
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