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What are the Different Hepatitis Tests?

By K. Gierok
Updated May 17, 2024
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Hepatitis is a general condition that encompassed a number of viral infections. The most common hepatitis tests includes screening for patients who may be infected with the condition, as well as a number of clinically-based tests. These hepatitis tests include enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays, recombinant immunoblot assays, and RNA testing. Often, while these tests are all equally effective, they are typically done in a specific order in an attempt to keep costs down. Patients who are positively diagnosed with hepatitis must often receive ongoing testing in order to evaluate their health status.

One of the best and easiest hepatitis tests is simply to identify those who exhibit a high risk for the development of the condition. This typically includes those who have been exposed to the condition through infected blood or tissue, or who are past or current drug users. In addition, the children of mothers who have been chronically infected with hepatitis are also commonly at risk for the development of the condition themselves. Individuals with abnormally high levels of certain liver enzymes may also be prone to hepatitis.

Individuals who are identified as being at risk for hepatitis infection are often then screened for the disease through the use of a test known as an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). This test can only be used to detect antibodies associated with hepatitis B infection, and may require as much as six months after infection to provide a positive diagnosis. Those who are at risk for the development of hepatitis are often encouraged to receive the ELISA test on an ongoing basis in order to stay up-to-date on their current health status.

Those who do have a positive ELISA test are then often required to undergo further hepatitis tests. This usually includes a recombinant immunoblot assay test (RIBA). This is a more intensive round of testing that can usually easily identify hepatitis within a number of days. This test is typically used only after an initial positive hepatitis diagnosis through ELISA due to its high cost and need for specialized training to administer.

Some patients who may be at risk for hepatitis may be encouraged to have RNA testing done. Typically, this is encouraged only for patients who appear to be infected with hepatitis C. RNA testing is the fastest of all three forms, and can produce a positive diagnosis for patients with hepatitis C.

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