Methods of testing for Hepatitis C

When a person is at risk or is exposed to the Hepatitis C virus, Hepatitis C screening and test is a recommended to make sure that acute Hepatitis C infection won’t become a chronic infection. A common Hepatitis C Testing is called HCV Antibody Testing and it is in the form of a blood test. There are other types of Hepatitis C Testing and Screening and some of them are as follows:

  1. HCV Antibody Testing – this is the first step in identifying if a person is infected with Hepatitis C virus. The test is conducted 2 to 3 months after exposure or since the virus enters the human body. Appositive HCV antibodies result means that the person was exposed to Hepatitis C virus and at least 15 to 20% of the time, the virus gets cleared off without needing any medications. Since the HCV Antibody Testing shows the previous infection, the next test that the patient needs to go through is a viral test.
  2. HCV Viral Load Testing – this test determines if the virus is still in the bloodstream of the patient. There are two types of HCV Viral Load Testing, a qualitative HCV RNA test, and a quantitative HCV RNA test. The first type determines if the virus is still in the blood of the patient while the second test determines the amount of the virus in the bloodstream. For the HCV Viral Load Testing, PCR (polymerase chain reaction), TMA (transcription-mediated amplification) and bDNA (branched DNA) are used. This test can tell if the patient infected with Hepatitis C virus will develop liver damage or cirrhosis in the future. The amount of virus in the bloodstream as shown in the 2. HCV Viral Load Testing will also determine the time needed to clear out the virus. It is also used to determine if the treatment is indeed working for the patient or not.
  3. HCV Genotypic Testing – the Hepatitis C virus has 7 genotypes or strains and for every genotype, there are subtypes as well. Determining the genotype of the genetic structure of the Hepatitis C virus that infects a patient is the first step in choosing the best medicine to use for treatment. The genotype or strain of the Hepatitis C virus that infects the patient also determines the length of the treatment needed. So far, genotype 1 is the most common strain of Hepatitis C virus affecting more than 46% of people diagnosed with Hepatitis C. in the US alone, at least 75% of Hepatitis C patients are infected by the genotype 1 Hepatitis C virus. So far, there is only one known case of genotype 7 in the world, a genotype that was discovered in 2013.

A person can be infected with more than one genotype of Hepatitis C virus. Such cases are common among people sharing needles when using drugs or people who received a blood transfusion before July 1992. Screening procedures on donated blood started only after July of 1992 hence those who had blood transfusion back then were at risk of receiving blood from someone infected with Hepatitis C virus.