The measurement of total antibodies against the hepatitis B virus core antigen (HBcAb) is used to diagnose recent or past hepatitis B infection, to determine latent (cryptic) infection of hepatitis B virus in healthy hepatitis B patients with negative results from other tests for hepatitis B antigens and antibodies. This specific measurement is not useful for distinguishing between acute, chronic and past hepatitis C infection.
Hepatitis B virus (HBV), has an incubation period of 6 to 23 weeks (mean 17 weeks). It is mainly transmitted by blood and certain secretions of the body. Hepatitis B can also be transmitted through the use of infected needles. This form of hepatitis is more severe than hepatitis A. It damages the liver cells and can lead to cirrhosis and liver cancer. The treatment involves the use of interferon and antiviral drugs in an attempt to control the virus's proliferation. Vaccination for HBV provides protection for over 20 years.
Hepatitis B virus consists of an outer shell that surrounds an inner "core". The outer shell contains a protein called hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) or Australian antigen. The inner core contains the hepatitis B core antigen (HBcAg). The inner core also contains another protein called e (HBeAg) antigen. The human body reacts to the presence of these antigens by producing antibodies against them. Thus, laboratory testing includes tests for the presence of antigens as well as antibodies (HBsAb, HBcAb and HBeAb).
Hepatitis B Core Antibody - Total and IgM (HBcAb, anti-HBc)
This test identifies antibodies against the hepatitis B core antigen. These antibodies appear in the serum at the onset of symptoms of hepatitis B virus infection, increase during the chronic phase of the disease, and persist throughout the life of the patient. HBcAb IgM antibodies appear in the serum shortly before the onset of symptoms and persist for up to 6 months after the acute phase of hepatitis B. Total HBcAb antibodies consist of all IgG and IgM antibodies against the hepatitis B core antigen, but currently there is no way to measure the specific IgG antibodies on their own. HBcAb is increased between the disappearance of surface antigen s (HBsAg) and the appearance of antibodies against surface antigen (HBsAb). This time period is the "kernel window" phase. Thus, this test is the most reliable test for determining the presence of hepatitis B, when both antibodies against the surface antigen and the surface antigen are absent.
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. 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.