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The Difference between the Hepatitis C Virus and Its Antibody

Responding to my most recent post, Getting the Facts Straight, I was asked, “How do you explain to someone the difference between having hepatitis C and having the hepatitis C antibody?” In other words, if you go through hepatitis C treatment and are cured but you still have the hepatitis C antibody, then don’t you still have hepatitis C?

This concept can be a little tricky, but just like anything, sometimes it just takes a good explanation. I think it was easier to learn this than figuring out where my attachments went after I downloaded them from my email. Here’s how I explain it:

If a bear attacked you and someone happened to photograph the event, you would have a picture of the attack. If you saw the photo later that day while your wounds were still fresh, you would still be hurt, but the bear injured you—the picture of it didn’t. If your wounds healed, and years later, you were looking at the photo, you would have proof that a bear attacked. However, the bear in the photo could no longer hurt you.

bearImagine that the hepatitis C virus is the bear and the hepatitis C antibody is the photograph of the bear. When attacked by hepatitis C, our body produces an antibody—much like a photograph of the virus’s attack. As long as we carry the hepatitis C virus, our viral load and our antibody tests will be positive. However, if we are treated and succeed in eliminating hepatitis C, the viral load will be negative (aka nondetectable or undetectable), but the hepatitis C antibody test will continue to be positive. The bear is gone, but we have its photograph—proof that we once had hepatitis C.

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{ 4 comments… add one }
  • Ron Ebbert April 19, 2013, 6:30 AM

    Very well explained- good comparison. Thanks

  • ramblinann April 21, 2013, 1:37 PM

    Excellent way of explaining this. Thank You

  • step0388 June 7, 2019, 9:05 AM

    So undetectable is/or is not a total cure

    • Lucinda Porter June 23, 2019, 7:58 PM

      Undetectable at 12 weeks after treatment is over is a total cure. You will always test positive for antibodies. just like one would test positive for measles antibodies despite not having them any longer.

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