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Hepatitis B virus (HBV) tests check for
substances in the blood that show whether a
hepatitis B infection is active or has occurred in the
past. The tests look for different signs of infection (markers):
It is important to identify the type of hepatitis virus
causing infection to prevent its spread and choose the proper treatment.
transmitted through infected body fluids, including blood,
semen, and vaginal fluids (including menstrual blood).
It also can be transmitted from a pregnant woman to her child at or near the
time of birth.
There are several different HBV tests. These are
the HBV tests most commonly done:
Other HBV tests are not done as often:
A hepatitis B vaccine is available to prevent an HBV
Infection with the
hepatitis D virus (HDV), or delta agent, occurs only in
people who are already infected with the hepatitis B virus (HBV). Vaccination
against hepatitis B will prevent hepatitis D infection. Hepatitis D infection
is rare in the United States and Canada, except among people who inject illegal
drugs and those who are frequently exposed to blood products. The hepatitis D
test detects HDV antibodies. A positive test indicates only that you have been
infected with HDV—it cannot distinguish between an acute or chronic infection.
Another test, the HDV RNA test, is needed to determine whether you have an
active HDV infection. It does not distinguish between an acute or chronic
infection. This test currently is not available except in research
Since hepatitis B infections can be spread through
sexual contact, practice safer sex until your test results are returned.
Hepatitis B virus testing is done
No special preparation is needed
before having hepatitis virus testing.
Talk to your doctor about any concerns you have regarding the need for the test, its
risks, or how it will be done. To help you understand the importance of this
test, fill out the
medical test information form(What is a PDF document?).
The health professional drawing blood
You may feel nothing at all from the
needle puncture, or you may feel a brief sting or pinch as the needle goes
through the skin. Some people feel a stinging pain while the needle is in the
vein. But many people do not feel any pain (or have only minor discomfort)
after the needle is positioned in the vein. The amount of pain you feel depends
on the skill of the health professional drawing the blood, the condition of
your veins, and your sensitivity to pain.
There is very little risk of
complications from having blood drawn from a vein.
virus tests check for substances in the blood that show a
hepatitis infection is active or has occurred in the
past. The tests look for
antigens or genetic material (DNA) of the
virus that causes hepatitis. Some tests also look for
antibodies that the body makes against the virus.
Normal results of hepatitis virus testing are called negative. This means that
no antigens, antibodies, or genetic material related to the hepatitis B virus
Hepatitis B (HBV)
Hepatitis B (HBV) antibodies and/or
antigens are detected. More tests may be needed to determine whether you
have an acute or chronic (long-term) HBV infection.
Hepatitis D (HDV)
Hepatitis D antibodies are found. But this
test cannot tell the difference between an acute and a chronic infection.
Hepatitis D can only be present if hepatitis B is present.
Your doctor will talk with you
about anything that may stop you from having the test or that may change the
Other Works Consulted
Chernecky CC, Berger BJ (2008). Laboratory Tests and Diagnostic Procedures, 5th ed. St. Louis:
Fischbach FT, Dunning MB III, eds. (2009).
Manual of Laboratory and Diagnostic Tests, 8th ed.
Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.
Pagana KD, Pagana TJ (2010). Mosby’s Manual of Diagnostic and Laboratory Tests, 4th ed. St. Louis: Mosby.
Current as of:
June 4, 2014
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & W. Thomas London, MD - Hepatology
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.
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