Hepatitis C 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 HCV. These 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 treatment.
HCV is spread through infected blood.
There is no vaccine available to prevent hepatitis C.
Hepatitis C virus testing is done to:
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 out the medical test information form .
The health professional taking a sample of your blood will:
A home test kit is available for hepatitis C (HCV). The kit contains a sharp instrument (lancet) that you use to draw a small sample of blood from your fingertip. The blood sample is then placed on a piece of collection paper and mailed in a prepaid envelope to a lab for testing. Results are available in 10 days. You are given an identification number to use when calling a toll-free number to obtain confidential results. If the results of the test are positive, it is important for you to make an appointment with your doctor to confirm the test results, determine the amount of damage to your liver, and determine whether antiviral therapy is an option.
The blood sample is taken from a vein in your arm. An elastic band is wrapped around your upper arm. It may feel tight. You may feel nothing at all from the needle, or you may feel a quick sting or pinch.
There is very little chance of a problem from having a blood sample taken from a vein.
The hepatitis C virus (HCV) test is a blood test that looks for the genetic material (RNA) of the hepatitis C virus or for the proteins (antibodies) the body makes against HCV.
Results of hepatitis C virus testing that show no infection are called negative. This means that no antibodies against HCV or HCV genetic material was found. Results are usually available in 5 to 7 days.
No hepatitis C antibodies are found.
No hepatitis C genetic material (RNA) is found.
Hepatitis C antibodies are found. A test to detect HCV RNA is needed to determine whether the infection is current or occurred in the past. If HCV RNA is found, genotyping can determine which strain of HCV is causing the infection.
Hepatitis C RNA is detected. This result means a current hepatitis C virus infection.
Hepatitis antibodies can take weeks to develop, so your results may be negative even though you are in the early stage of an infection.
Many conditions can change HCV antibody levels. Your doctor will talk with you about any abnormal results that may be related to your symptoms and past health.
Your results may need to be rechecked if you are taking some herbs, supplements, or other alternative medicine products.
Smith BD, et al. (2012). Recommendations for the identification of chronic hepatitis C virus infection among persons born during 1945–1965. MMWR, 61(RR-4): 1–32. Available online: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/rr6104a1.htm.
U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (2013). Screening for hepatitis C virus infection in adults: Recommendation Statement. Available online: http://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/uspstf/uspshepc.htm.
Other Works Consulted
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2003). Guidelines for laboratory testing and result reporting of antibody to hepatitis C virus. MMWR, 52(RR-03): 1–16. Available online: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/rr5203a1.htm.
Pagana KD, Pagana TJ (2010). Mosby's Manual of Diagnostic and Laboratory Tests, 4th ed. St. Louis: Mosby.
Scott JD, Gretch DR (2007). Molecular diagnostics of hepatitis C virus infection: A systematic review. JAMA, 297(7): 724–732.
Current as of:
February 11, 2020
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal MedicineAdam Husney MD - Family MedicineW. Thomas London MD - Hepatology
Current as of: February 11, 2020
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & W. Thomas London MD - Hepatology
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2020 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.