6 Facts about Hepatitis C Testingby The HealthCentral Editorial Team
Many cases are discovered during routine screenings
Chronic hepatitis C is an infection that persists for more than six months, and can be detected by the presence of its RNA. Most chronic infections do not cause symptoms for decades, and people do not know they even have the disease until elevated liver enzyme levels are detected.
An antibody test is the next step
An antibody test is a blood test that can show whether a person has developed antibodies to the hepatitis C virus. If the test is positive, it means the person was exposed to the virus at some time in his or her life, but it does not necessarily mean the virus is still present in the bloodstream.
HCV test can determine if virus is active
This test looked at genetic material, called RNA, and tests using polymerase chain reaction to identify if the hepatitis C infection is active. RNA is found in a person’s blood within one to two weeks after initial exposure to the virus. This test can also be used to double-check an antibody test.
HCV quantitative test can determine virus load
Another type of RNA test, called an HCV quantitative test, can be used before and during treatment to check the viral load in the blood. This measures the level of the virus in the blood, and can help the clinician determine how long treatment needs to be given and to see how well the infected person is responding to treatment.
HCV viral genotyping can determine the virus genotype
Hepatitis C has six different genotypes, and some are easier to treat than others. This test determines which HCV genotype is present in the blood.
Liver biopsy can provide useful information
Liver biopsies can help determine the degree of fibrosis of the liver in people with hepatitis C. Fibrosis implies the possible progression to cirrhosis of the liver, and can be mild or advanced. This information can inform the treatment options and management of hepatitis C.