Blood

Acute Viral Hepatitis Screen

£171.35 Price excludes a visit fee
Product Code: AHSC Turnaround time: 1 working day
Turnaround time is defined as the usual number of days from the date of pickup of a specimen for testing to when the result is released to the patient. In some cases, additional time should be allowed for additional confirmatory or additional reflex tests. Testing schedules may vary.

Includes test for hepatitis A, B and C that can detect an infection caused by one of these three viruses.

An acute viral hepatitis panel is a group of tests often performed together to detect a viral hepatitis infection. Hepatitis is a condition characterised by inflammation and enlargement of the liver. It has many different causes including, for example, drugs and autoimmune diseases, but a common cause is an infection with a virus. There are five hepatitis viruses identified so far that can cause the disease, including Hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E. Viral hepatitis is most commonly caused by Hepatitis A, B, or C. Cytomegalovirus (CMV) and Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) can also cause hepatitis.

Regardless of the cause, the signs and symptoms of hepatitis are the same. If acute symptoms are suspected to be caused by one of the hepatitis viruses or if someone is at an increased risk of being infected or has been exposed, then hepatitis testing can help determine if the person has been infected and which virus is present.

Hepatitis A virus (HAV) is highly contagious and is usually contracted by ingesting food or water contaminated with the virus or by coming in direct physical contact with an infected person. While Hepatitis A is usually mild, it can on rare occasions cause a severe, acute disease; however, it does not cause a chronic infection as do Hepatitis B and C. A vaccine is available to prevent Hepatitis A.

Hepatitis B virus (HBV) is the most common cause of acute viral hepatitis. It is spread through contact with blood or other body fluids from an infected person. Exposure can occur, for example, through sharing of needles for intravenous drug use or through unprotected sex. People who live in or travel to areas of the world where hepatitis B is prevalent are at a greater risk. Mothers can pass the infection to their babies, usually during birth. The virus, however, is not spread through food or water, casual contact such as holding hands or coughing or sneezing. A vaccine can be given to protect against Hepatitis B.

Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is also spread by exposure to contaminated blood, primarily through the sharing of needles by intravenous drug users, but also by sharing personal items contaminated by blood such as razors, through unprotected sex with an infected person, via health care occupational exposure, and from mother to baby during childbirth. Before tests for HCV became available in the 1990s, HCV was often transmitted by blood transfusions but this is now extremely rare. Currently, there is no vaccine to prevent infection with HCV.

Some of the tests detect IgM antibodies. These are the first antibodies produced during the initial stages of infection. As the disease progresses or resolves, IgM antibody levels decrease. Another test frequently performed measures hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg), which detects proteins on the surface of the virus. HBsAg is the earliest indicator of an acute Hepatitis B infection and is usually present even before symptoms appear, so this test is useful for screening those who are at high risk of infection or who may have been exposed. A test for Hepatitis C antibody cannot distinguish between an active or previous infection and further testing is necessary (e.g. molecular detection of HCV RNA) to determine whether the infection is current.

The incubation period of hepatitis A is usually 14–28 days.

Hepatitis B: Usually 45-180 days, average of 60-90 days.

Hepatitis C: Usually 9-180 days, average of 45-65 days.

No test preparation is needed.

Acute viral hepatitis testing may be requested when a person has had blood tests which reveal abnormal liver function or and/or when someone has acute symptoms associated with liver damage such as:

  • Fever, fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain
  • Dark urine and/or pale coloured stool
  • Joint pain
  • Jaundice
  • Itching (pruritus)

In the presence of acute symptoms such as those listed above, a positive result is considered diagnostic for an acute infection with Hepatitis A and B. Testing acute viral hepatitis may sometimes be used to screen people who are at an increased risk for Hepatitis B or C infection or if it is known that they have been exposed. Below are listed some examples of who may be screened for acute viral hepatitis:

  • People who have elevated liver enzymes (ALT and AST) with no known cause
  • People who inject illegal drugs
  • People with sexually transmitted diseases
  • Men who have sex with men
  • People with certain medical conditions that require that their immune system be suppressed (for example, transplant recipients)
  • People who are in close contact with someone infected with Hepatitis B or C
  • Those infected with HIV
  • People who received a blood transfusion or organ transplant before July 1992 or clotting factor produced before 1987
  • People on long-term dialysis
  • Children born to Hepatitis B or C positive women
  • For hepatitis B, people who were born in areas of the world where the virus is common, which includes Asia, Africa, southern Europe and parts of South America
  • People with evidence of chronic liver disease

The table below summarises results that may be seen following testing for acute viral hepatitis:

Anti-hepatitis A, IgM Hepatitis B surface antigen Anti-hepatitis B core, IgM Anti-hepatitis C Interpretation
Positive Negative Negative Negative Acute hepatitis A
Negative Positive Positive Negative Acute hepatitis B*
Negative Positive Negative Negative Chronic hepatitis B infection
Negative Negative Positive Negative Quantity of hepatitis B surface antigen is too low to detect
Negative Negative Negative Positive Acute or chronic hepatitis C; additional tests are required to make the determination

* Note – Persons with small amounts of anti-hepatitis B core IgM in their blood are more likely to have chronic HBV infection of have been infected with HBV several months previously.

If other hepatitis tests are performed to help determine prior exposure or previous infection, they may indicate the following:

  • Hepatitis A antibody, total (IgM and IgG) — if negative, no current or previous HAV infection; if positive, indicates exposure to HAV or the HAV vaccine. An IgM test must be done if an acute infection is suspected.
  • Hepatitis B core antibody, total (IgM and IgG) — a positive test can indicate previous exposure to the virus. An IgM test must be performed if an acute infection is suspected.
  • Hepatitis B surface antibody — if positive, it indicates that HBV infection has resolved; depending on results of other HBV tests. A negative result may indicate that an infection has not resolved if hepatitis B surface antigen is positive. It will also be positive with a negative hepatitis B core antibody after you have received a hepatitis B vaccine.

It is possible to be infected with more than one hepatitis virus, and acute infection with one hepatitis virus can be superimposed on a chronic infection with a different hepatitis virus. In such cases, there may be a positive result for more than one type of virus and care must be taken when interpreting the results.

If all the viral tests are negative, then the antibody or antigen level is too low to detect or the hepatitis is due to some other cause.

Disclaimer

The laboratory test results are NOT to be interpreted as results of a "stand-alone" test. The test results have to be interpreted after correlating with suitable clinical findings and additional supplemental tests/information. Your healthcare providers will explain the meaning of your tests results, based on the overall clinical scenario.

Certain medications that you may be currently taking may influence the outcome of the test. Hence, it is important to inform your healthcare provider of the complete list of medications (including any herbal supplements) you are currently taking. This will help the healthcare provider interpret your test results more accurately and avoid unnecessary chances of a misdiagnosis.

This test is found in these product packages
Hepatitis A, B & C profile

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Hepatitis B profile
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This package includes Hep B Surface Antigen & Antibodies and Hep B Core IgG/IgM tests.

HIV 1&2/p24 Ag (5th Gen)
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The 5th Gen HIV test identifies both HIV-1 and HIV-2 antibodies and the p24 antigen individually in one blood sample to inform you which marker is positive.

Hepatitis A Profile
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Hepatitis A antibodies are produced in response to an infection with the hepatitis A virus. The test detects the presence of total IgG/IgM antibodies and IgM separately.

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