The determination of hepatitis C virus antibodies is used to test the exposure to the virus and to monitor chronic hepatitis C in symptomatic and asymptomatic patients.
Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is the cause of most post-transfusion hepatitis C cases and is a major cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide.
Laboratory screening tests for possible hepatitis C virus infection usually begin with testing for the presence of specific anti-HCV antibodies in the serum. Anti-HCV antibodies are usually not detectable during the first 2 months after infection but are detected about 6 months after the start of infection. These antibodies do not neutralize the virus and do not provide protective immunity against infection. The decrease in the specific antibody titer may occur after the infection has been eliminated.
Despite the significant value of serological tests in detecting HCV infection, there are some limitations:
- There may be a long delay (up to 6 months) between exposure to the virus and the development of detectable levels of anti-HCV antibodies
- Serological testing cannot distinguish between past (resolved) and present HCV infection
- Serologic testing cannot provide information on the clinical response to treatment
The positive result of serological testing should be confirmed by complementary or confirmatory tests, such as molecular testing for HCV RNA or confirmatory testing for HCV antibodies by Western blot. Molecular testing provides a very sensitive and specific approach for the immediate detection of the hepatitis C virus.
Laboratory test results are the most important parameter for the diagnosis and monitoring of all pathological conditions. 70%-80% of diagnostic decisions are based on laboratory tests. The correct interpretation of laboratory results allows a doctor to distinguish "healthy" from "diseased".
Laboratory test results should not be interpreted from the numerical result of a single analysis. Test results should be interpreted in relation to each individual case and family history, clinical findings, and the results of other laboratory tests and information. Your personal physician should explain the importance of your test results.
At Diagnostiki Athinon we answer any questions you may have about the test you perform in our laboratory and we contact your doctor to get the best possible medical care.