- Last Update On : 2013-11-25
Hepatitis C (HCV) is a major cause of chronic liver disease in the United States. Approximately 4 million people in the United States are currently infected and an estimated 40,000 new infections are suspected each year. The initial diagnosis of HCV infection is based on positive HCV antibody tests and the detection of HCV RNA by qualitative PCR.
The initial test for hepatitis C (HCV) infection is an immunoassay that detects antibodies to multiple HCV proteins. Supplemental or confirmatory testing is recommended for all reactive HCV antibody tests to determine the presence of active infection. Detection of HCV RNA in the blood by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is indicative of active infection. PCR testing has been available since September 1995. In this assay, a DNA copy of viral RNA is synthesized by reverse transcription. This DNA molecule is amplified millions of times by PCR. Because of its high sensitivity, PCR can detect HCV infection m