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What is hepatitis B surface antigen positive?

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Dr Seemanthini Desai, the leading microbiologist of Dr Desai Microlab, Bengaluru explains the terminologies used in hepatitis B blood tests.

A blood test diagnoses hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection. The serologic test measures the presence of HBV specific antigens and antibodies. The combination of these serologic markers indicates whether an individual is HBV infected or not. It also indicates the phases of HBV infection, whether it’s acute or chronic, it’s acquired immunity against HBV due vaccination/prior infection, or susceptible to infection.

Some of the terms used in hepatitis B blood test are:

  • HBsAg (hepatitis B surface antigen): A “positive” or “reactive” result means that a person has HBV infection.
  • Anti-HBs or HBsAb (antibody to hepatitis B surface antigen): Presence of these antibodies indicates that the person is immune to HBV infection usually due to vaccination or prior infection.
  • Anti-HBc or HBcAb (antibody to hepatitis B core antigen): If it is positive, it may indicate a person’s contact the HBV.
  • IgM anti-HBc: When reported positive it indicates that the person has suffered from the infection in the last six months.

Do note that the interpretation of the combinations of these markers should be best left to a pathologist.


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