Hepatitis B Virus - Core Antibody (IgM)

Looks for IgM antibodies to the core portion of the Hepatitis B virus circulating in the bloodstream.

PLEASE NOTE: ALL RESULTS AND INFORMATION PROVIDED BY HEALTH eLABS ARE INTENDED FOR GENERAL HEALTH INFORMATION PURPOSES ONLY. AS SUCH THEY ARE NOT A SUBSTITUTE FOR PROFESSIONAL MEDICAL ADVICE OR A MEDICAL EXAMINATION, AND SHOULD NOT BE USED TO DIAGNOSE, TREAT, PREVENT OR CURE ANY DISEASE, SYNDROME, OR CONDITION WITHOUT THE SUPERVISION OF A LICENSED PHYSICIAN.

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NOTE: This test is used in the diagnosis of an acute infection with the Hepatitis B virus, and can also be purchased as part of our Acute Hepatitis panel. This test should not be used to check for immunity to the Hepatitis B virus in those who have been vaccinated against it. For that testing, please visit our Immunity Status – Hepatitis B page.

PREPARATION: No fasting or other special preparation is needed for this test.

What does this test do?

This test determines the amount of IgM antibodies to the core portion of the Hepatitis B virus circulating in the bloodstream.

Why is this important?

Hepatitis is a general term that means inflammation of the liver. This condition can result from many different causes including excessive alcohol use, medications, chemicals, poisons, toxins, or by infection.

One of the organisms that can infect the liver is called Hepatitis B virus (HBV). This virus is transmitted through exposure to the blood or body fluids of another infected person, most commonly through unprotected sex. However, other means of transmission have been identified:

  • Sharing household items such as razor blades or toothbrushes
  • Tattooing and body piercing using unsterilized equipment
  • Needlestick exposure in health care workers
  • Sharing needles among intravenous drug users
  • Blood transfusions (that were given before screening for HBV was started in the 1990s)

After entering the bloodstream, the Hep B virus infects the liver and causes the classic symptoms of hepatitis such as fever, nausea, vomiting, jaundice, and right upper abdominal pain caused by the inflamed liver. Once the initial infection subsides, the Hep B virus persists in the body, and over the long term may lead to liver damage, liver failure, the need for a liver transplant, and even death. Long term carriers of Hep B are also at a high risk of developing liver cancer. Most Hep B infections can be treated with advanced medications, but early detection is key.

What do the results mean?

In the early stages of a Hep B viral infection, the immune system produces antibodies that help target and destroy the virus. One of the antibodies produced is an IgM type molecule that targets the core of the Hep B virus. This test checks for those specific IgM antibodies to the core of the Hep B virus; it does not detect the Hep B virus itself.

The utility of this test lies in the fact that it is highly sensitive – it is positive in most acute infections. It is also highly specific, and in some cases testing positive for hepatitis B core IgM antibody may be the only specific marker for the diagnosis of an acute infection with the Hepatitis B virus. Therefore a positive test means that your body is producing these antibodies, and strongly indicates infection with the Hep B virus. If your test is positive for antibodies, it is vital that you follow up with your physician to discuss what steps should be taken next, if any.

That being said, because there is sometimes a delay between the time of infection and when the immune system starts to generate IgM antibodies to the Hep B virus. This means that even if your test result is negative, if you think you may have been recently exposed to the Hepatitis B virus then you should likewise follow up with your physician to discuss what steps should be taken next, if any.