Hepatitis B Virus Tests

Test Overview

Hepatitis B tests are blood tests that show whether you have an active hepatitis B infection. The tests can also show if you had the infection in the past.

The tests look for different signs of infection:

  • Antigens, which are made by bacteria or viruses.
  • Antibodies, which are made by the body to fight infection.
  • Hepatitis B DNA, which is the virus's genetic material.

Hepatitis antibodies can take weeks or months to develop. So an infected person may test negative early in the infection.

Why It Is Done

You may need testing if:

  • You have symptoms of hepatitis.
  • You may have been exposed to the hepatitis B virus. You are more likely to have been exposed to the virus if you inject drugs, have many sex partners, or are likely to be exposed to body fluids (such as if you are a health care worker).
  • You've had other tests that show you have liver problems.
  • You are pregnant.
  • You or your doctor wants to know if you are protected from getting the disease.

The tests also are done to help your doctor decide about your treatment and see how well it's working.

How To Prepare

In general, there's nothing you have to do before this test, unless your doctor tells you to.

How It Is Done

A health professional uses a needle to take a blood sample, usually from the arm.

Watch

How It Feels

When a blood sample is taken, you may feel nothing at all from the needle. Or you might feel a quick sting or pinch.

Risks

There is very little chance of having a problem from this test. When a blood sample is taken, a small bruise may form at the site.

Results

Abnormal (positive)

Hepatitis B testing

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B antibodies and/or antigens are found. More tests may be needed to see if you have an acute or chronic infection.

  • Hepatitis B surface antigen shows an active infection. If the test is positive for longer than 6 months, this means you have a chronic infection. You can spread the infection to others.
  • Hepatitis B surface antibody shows the end of active infection and means you are protected against hepatitis B for life. It also can show that you got a hepatitis B vaccination. In some cases, the test shows that you have antibodies and antigen. In this case you are still contagious.
  • Hepatitis B e-antigen shows an active infection. You can spread it to others.
  • Hepatitis B DNA means that you have a current infection.
  • Hepatitis B core antibody shows that you have been infected with hepatitis B. It does not tell the difference between a past or present infection.
  • Hepatitis B core antibody IgM shows that a hepatitis B infection has occurred within the last 6 months. It can also mean that a chronic infection has flared up.
  • Hepatitis B e-antibody shows a less active infection. You are less contagious but can still infect others.

The test may also find hepatitis D antibodies, which means you have hepatitis D. This infection occurs only in people who are already infected with hepatitis B.

Credits

Current as of: September 23, 2020

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
W. Thomas London MD - Hepatology

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated, disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. Learn how we develop our content.

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This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated, disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. Learn how we develop our content.