What does a positive hepatitis C antibody test mean? A positive result on a hepatitis C antibody test indicates that hepatitis C antibodies were detected in the specimen tested. This result is consistent with a current infection, or a past infection that has resolved, or a biologic false positivity for hepatitis C antibody (1). What are the next steps? Consult with a health care professional for follow up testing for hepatitis C nucleic acid (RNA). The detection of hepatitis C RNA utilizes a different lab technique compared to the detection of hepatitis C antibodies. If hepatitis C RNA is not detected, it indicates a past hepatitis C infection that has resolved, and generally no further action or treatment is required. It is estimated that up to half of all infected individuals are able to spontaneously clear hepatitis C after an acute infection (2). If hepatitis C RNA is detected, it indicates a current hepatitis C infection. Generally an additional test for hepatitis C RNA is recommended to confirm a current infection before any treatment protocols begin (3). Management and treatment of an active hepatitis C infection Appropriate counseling, care and treatment will be organized by the health professional who requested the hepatitis C RNA test (4). Management and treatment options may include:
- Medical evaluation for chronic liver disease
- Vaccinations for hepatitis A and hepatitis B (no vaccines are available for hepatitis C)
- Screening for and control of alcohol consumption
- HIV testing
- Direct acting antivirals to limit the replication of the hepatitis C virus and slow the progression of the disease
- Following a healthy diet and staying physically active
- Consultations before taking any new prescriptions, medications or supplements (to prevent further potential liver damage)
- Avoid donating blood, tissue, or semen
- Covering of cuts and sores to prevent transmission of hepatitis C
(1) Ghany MG, Strader DB, Thomas DL, & Seeff LB. (2009). Diagnosis, management, and treatment of hepatitis C: An update. Hepatology, 49 (4),1335-1374.
(2) Seo S, et al. (2020). Prevalence of Spontaneous Clearance of Hepatitis C Virus Infection Doubled From 1998 to 2017. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol, 18 (2), 511-513.
(3) Hepatitis C. (2020, July). World Health Organization: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/hepatitis-c
(4) Viral Hepatitis – Hepatitis C Questions and Answers for Health Professionals. (2020, August). CDC: https://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/hcv/hcvfaq.htm#a2