Hepatitis C Virus Tests
virus (HCV) test is a blood test that looks for the genetic material (RNA) of the virus that causes hepatitis or for the proteins (antibodies) the body makes against
proteins will be present in your blood if you have a hepatitis C infection now
or have had one in the past. It is important to identify the type of hepatitis
virus causing the infection, to prevent its spread and choose the proper
HCV is spread
through infected blood.
- Anti-HCV antibody tests
look for antibodies to HCV in the blood, indicating an HCV infection has
occurred. This test cannot tell the difference between an acute or long-term (chronic)
infection. The enzyme immunoassay (EIA) may be the first test done to detect
- HCV RIBA is another test that detects antibodies to HCV. This test can tell whether a
positive result was caused by an actual HCV infection or whether the result was
false-positive. This test may be done to double-check
a positive EIA test result.
- HCV genetic
material (RNA) testing uses polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to identify an
active hepatitis C infection. The RNA can be found in a person's blood within 2 weeks after exposure to the virus. HCV RNA testing may be done to
double-check a positive result on an HCV antibody test, measure the level of
virus in the blood (called viral load), or show how well a person with HCV is
responding to treatment.
- HCV quantitative
test (also called viral load) is often used before and during treatment to find
out how long treatment needs to be given and to check how well treatment is
- HCV viral genotyping is used to
find out which genotype of the HCV virus is present. HCV has six genotypes, and
some are easier to treat than others.
There is no vaccine available to prevent hepatitis
Why It Is Done
Hepatitis C virus testing is done
- Find out if a hepatitis C
infection is the cause of abnormal liver function tests.
- Screen people (such as doctors, dentists, and
nurses) who have an increased chance of getting or spreading a hepatitis C
- Screen potential blood donors and donor organs to
prevent the spread of hepatitis C.
- Screen people born from 1945 to 1965. People in this age group are more likely to have hepatitis C and not know it.1, 2
- Identify the type of hepatitis C virus causing
How To Prepare
You do not need to do anything before
you have this test.
Talk to your doctor about any concerns you
have regarding the need for the test, its risks, how it will be done, or what
the results will mean. To help you understand the importance of this test, fill
medical test information form(What is a PDF document?).