Hepatitis C: What blood tests?


Topic: Hepatitis C, June 2000

Dr. Lee:
In an otherwise healthy person who was found to have abnormal liver tests and you suspect Hepatitis C, what tests are available to determine whether this person is infected with Hepatitis C?

Dr. Edward Block:
There are several tests, Dennis. The first commonly ordered test is the hepatitis C antibody test (also known as anti-HCV antibody ) . A positive hepatitis C antibody test usually indicates previous exposure to hepatitis C. In other words not everyone testing positive to hepatitis C antibody actually has active hepatitis C infection.

To determine active hepatitis C infection, the doctor orders hepatitis C RNA test (also known as HCV RNA). This is an actual measure of virus in the blood and in the liver. Therefore a positive hepatitis C RNA test indicates active hepatitis C infection.

We can even take this one step further now and do specialized genotype testing. We now can actually determine the genotype (species) of hepatitis C that is infecting the patient. It turns out that different genotypes of hepatitis C virus may have very different responses to treatment.

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