Hepatitis B is a liver infection that may lead to a chronic illness and deadly complications. The Hepatitis B infection and Immunity package can help screen and diagnose an active infection. It can also help assess whether your immune system is equipped to fight off a future exposure of the hepatitis B virus. This is known as immunity to the virus and is achieved either through previous exposure or vaccination.
- Hepatitis B Core Antibodies, Total — Core antibodies are the first antibodies produced by the body in response to infection with hepatitis B. A positive core antibody result could indicate either previous or ongoing infection.1
- Hepatitis B Surface Antibodies — Surface antibodies are produced in response to the presence of surface antigens. A reactive result is consistent with immunity to the hepatitis B virus, either by recovery from infection or by vaccination.1
- Hepatitis B Surface Antigen — Detects antigens to hepatitis B to screen for active infection.
What's it used for?
What is Hepatitis B, Infection and Immunity?
Hepatitis B is a liver infection caused by a virus: the HBV. While the infection is acute in many cases; it may become chronic in others, causing an illness lasting more than 6 months. Signs and symptoms start appearing three months after being exposed. Most of them last for up to twelve weeks. They are many potenital signs including abdominal pain, fever, jaundice, joints pain, nausea and vomiting, weakness and fatigue, yellowing of the white of the eyes and dark urine. Symptoms can get worse in infected people who are older than 60 years.
Anyone with an active hepatitis B infection is considered contagious even without symptoms
. This virus can survive outside the human body
, for up to a week. Hepatitis B can be passed through blood, semen and other bodily fluids. It is a highly contagious virus that is passed from a person to another in many ways such as:
- Having an unprotected sexual encounter with an infected person. The saliva, semen, and vaginal secretions of infected person contain the virus.
- Sharing needles and syringes that may be contaminated by an infected person. This is usually the case of drug users.
- Needle risks for health care workers who may prick themselves with an infected needle.
- Birth where the infection can be spread from an infected mother to her newborn child.
A woman infected with Hepatitis B can breastfeed her baby who got the hepatitis B vaccine. A study published by the BMC Public Health Journal
in 2011 explains that breast milk does contain the hepatitis B virus; so, it is infected; however, breastfeeding a vaccinated infant may not pose any risk to the child.
Despite the fact that the virus is found in the saliva, it cannot spread through sneezing, coughing, or kissing. Sharing utensils with an infected individual will not pass on the infection.
When you get a new hepatitis B infection, the hepatitis B surface antigen is what you first find in a serology test. This indicator can be detected anywhere between one to nine weeks post infection. In most people it can be detected in their blood test within a month after contracting hepatitis B.
The hepatitis B surface antibody is another indicator of the hepatitis B package. However, it is only detectable in a blood test when the hepatitis B surface antigen disappears. This is normally the case of people whose body was able to get rid of the virus; and, prevent its progression to a chronic condition. When this antibody tests positive; then, this indicates that the infected person has recovered and built immunity against hepatitis B.
The hepatitis B core antibody is an indicator that remains positive indefinitely if the person gets have a hepatitis B infection. It normally gives a positive result if you are currently infected with the hepatitis B virus, whether it’s an acute or chronic one.
Why take the Hepatitis B Infection and Immunity test?
The hepatitis B virus test is needed to screen, as well as diagnose an acute or chronic hepatitis B infection. It is also used to detect a past resolved hepatitis B infection; or, to monitor and assess the chosen treatment. according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American College of Physicians, people who are born in the United States and did not get vaccinated against the hepatitis b virus, are at high risk for this virus.
If you think you have been exposed to hepatitis B, you need to get tested as soon as possible. Also, if you are at high risk of being infected, getting tested routinely is recommended. You are more prone than others to be infected with hepatitis B, if you are health care worker, a man who is having sex with another man, use intravenous drugs, have many sex partners, have a chronic liver disease, have a kidney disease, are older than sixty years and have diabetes, or have been traveling to countries that are prevalent with the hepatitis B virus. Also, people who are HIV positive, those who have been in jail, and pregnant women are recommended to be screened regularly.
It is essential to be screened early for hepatitis B to prevent any possible complications of this infection, such as having a hepatitis D infection, liver cirrhosis, liver failure, liver cancer and even death. Also, screening is the best preventive measure to stop spreading the infections to others.
What your Hepatitis B Infection and Immunity test results mean?
When a test result includes many indicators, interpreting it can be a little confusing. The Hepatitis B infection and Immunity package includes three Hepatitis B tests: the surface antigens, core antibodies and surface antibodies. The results of these three markers may indicate a new or chronic infection. Here is an interpretation of the results:
- If the surface antigens are negative, the surface antibodies are negative and the core antibodies are negative; then, you have not been infected but are still at risk of a future infection. Such a result also indicates that you have not been vaccinated against Hepatitis B. you may want to discuss with your doctor about getting the vaccine to be protected.
- If the surface antigens are negative but the surface antibodies and core antibodies are positive; then, you have recovered from a past infection. You are not putting others at risk of getting infected from you. The presence of surface antibodies indicates a natural infection. In that case, you do not need to get vaccinated.
- If the surface antigens and core antibodies are negative but the surface antibodies are positive; then, you have been vaccinated against hepatitis B, you will not infect others and you do not need any vaccine to be protected from the virus.
- If the surface antigens are positive, the surface antibodies are negative and core antibodies are positive; then, you have an active hepatitis B infection. Also, you can spread the virus to others. You do need more evaluation to have a correct diagnosis and get treated.
- If the surface antigens are negative, the core antibodies are positive and the surface antibodies are negative; then, you may need to get retested. You may need a vaccine but you need to check your doctor as soon as you can. These results are unclear.
Hepatitis B infections do not have specific treatments; however, the symptoms are usually treated with supportive care. When the viral infection becomes chronic; then, antiviral medications will be administered.