U.S. Patients with Chronic Hepatitis B Can Now Access Quantitative HBVsAg Test to Help Assess Response to Antiviral Therapy  

Hepatitis B is a potentially life-threatening liver infection that is caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV). This chronic infection puts people at a high risk of death from cirrhosis and liver cancer. The virus is transmitted by blood and other body fluids.

Diagnosis and, increasingly, treatment decisions for HBV infection are guided by lab tests. Now, Quest has introduced a new test service to help guide treatment decisions, a first of its kind offering in the United States.

Diagnosing HBV

Testing and treatment of HBV depends on whether the infection is classified as acute or chronic. When HBV is acute, patients may experience some symptoms such as itchiness or jaundice. These symptoms may last for a few weeks and then gradually improve. However, if the disease is chronic, patients may be asymptomatic or may have chronic inflammation of the liver. This type of infection dramatically increases the incidence of liver cancer.

HBV can be diagnosed through the HBV DNA blood test or qualitative HBV surface antigen (HBsAg) test. Screening guidelines recommend that those who have not been vaccinated and meet criteria be screened. These criteria including living areas of the world where hepatitis B occurs in more than 2 percent, those with HIV, intravenous drug users, men who have sex with men, and those who live with someone with hepatitis B should be tested for HBV

In addition to a test for screening another test called a quantitative HBsAg test, which measures the quantity of a viral antigen, a marker of infection status, and can be used to determine how an HBV-infected individual’s immune system is responding to treatment for the virus. The serum test provides quantitative information to help physicians monitor response to antiviral medications and predict potential for relapse following treatment.

Treating HBV

Acute HBV does not usually require treatment. However, people with chronic HBV may be treated with interferon or other direct acting antivirals. Treatment can last from months to a year depending on the type of medication. HBV cannot be cured, but these treatments may stop the virus from replicating, which is called a functional cure. That is why it is important for people with HBV consult their treating physician on the role that HBV surface antigen test can play in guiding treatment course and ensuring the virus does not reactive.

Quest Diagnostics is a leader in hepatitis diagnostic information testing with services that include genotyping, viral load and antiviral resistance testing to aid diagnosis, treatment and monitoring. The company also collaborates with the CDC to identify trends in screening, diagnosis and treatment for viral hepatitis (hepatitis A, B, C and E) in the United States based on the national Quest Diagnostics Health Trends™ database of de-identified clinical hepatitis test data.