What is viral load in hepatitis C

Determination of viral load is considered one of the most important methods by which one can diagnose hepatitis C. The result of this study is able not only to show the presence or absence of hepatitis C, but also the stage of the disease.

It will also show the progression of the disease. To understand all of this viral load data in hepatitis C, the decryption table is used.

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What does viral load mean?

In fact, the viral load shows how much RNA or ribonucleic acids in the patient’s blood are. If such cells are found, their number is measured.

Knowing the amount of RNA, it is possible to determine whether the patient has this disease, at what stage is the development of the disease and whether it is progressing. RNA can infect other liver cells and spread hepatitis C.

Such studies are usually carried out only when antibodies to HCV have shown themselves. The volume of such cells is quantified per milliliter of blood. The result will be reliable, after it there will be no need to conduct additional research.

Methods for determination

There are only two types of testing that allow you to determine the quantitative indicator of RNA in the blood:

  • Qualitative determination – allows you to determine whether a patient has a given disease. There can be only two results – negative or positive. Positive indicates the presence of the disease, negative – about its absence.
  • Quantitative – most often checks the condition of a patient with hepatitis C in the later stages. Based on the results, the prescribed treatment is usually adjusted, and periods of exacerbation or remission are determined, which is also important for treatment.

If a viral load test reveals a large number of virus cells in the blood, then this indicates the presence and progression of a process that affects healthy and viable organ cells.

There are 3 methods to determine the number of such cells:

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  • Quantitative PCR. This method allows you to find even a small number of infected cells in the blood at the onset of the disease. It is most often used when a diagnosis of suspected hepatitis C is made. If the person is not infected, then the result of this study will be negative. Also, this method is able to identify the available antibodies to suppress the disease on their own by the cells of the body.
  • Branched DNA method. This method is much cheaper than the previous one and is faster to execute. But he has less sensitivity, so sometimes the disease cannot be determined in the early stages. It is used more often to confirm a diagnosis than to establish it.
  • TMA. Otherwise, it is called transcriptional amplification and has a similar mechanism to that of the two previous methods. This method is cheaper than the previous two, but at the same time it is effective enough to determine the onset of the disease.

If RNA cells are detected in the blood, additional studies are carried out, including detailed blood biochemistry, biopsy of the material and ultrasound.

Also, simultaneously with these additional studies, drug therapy is prescribed, since the earlier the disease is detected, the easier it is to return the person’s health to normal. If an average or insignificant number of cells is detected, then recovery will come very quickly, subject to the adoption of therapy.

Analysis Timing and RNA Limits

The fact how dangerous the patient is for the people around him can only be shown by the concentration of infected cells in the blood. In addition, this indicator allows you to determine whether it is effective to treat a patient with medicines.

Low viral load values ​​indicate a close recovery from the disease or the onset of remission, and high values ​​indicate possible complications. These complications can affect any internal organs, but most often they affect primarily the liver.

Each test carried out should carry an adjustment in the prescribed treatment. If the amount of RNA has decreased, then the amount of medication decreases and the patient is transferred to sparing therapy.

If the viral load remains at the same level or increases, then the question is raised about the effectiveness of treatment of the applied therapy and replacement of drugs. It is advisable to use this analysis in conjunction with others in order to see the complete picture.

The test results will be ready in a few days, the maximum period is a week. If the diagnosis has long been established, then the viral load will need to be retaken every month to see the dynamics. If a person has never been sick with anything like this, then he will have to take it once, in case of detection of antibodies – annually.

The results column may include the phrase “RNA not found”, “RNA found in range” or “RNA found below measurement range”. With the first two phrases, everything is clear – either there is RNA or it is not. The latter value indicates that RNA is available in small quantities, in order to identify the exact amount, a number of additional studies need to be done.

Explanation of test results

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The norm for all people is the same – a healthy person should not have RNA in the blood. If the RNA content has been identified, then the viral load in hepatitis C is deciphered. Moreover, the higher it is, the more dangerous.

The indicator in a normal state should be below 800 IU/ml. In some laboratories, the results are not given in the form of the usual number, but in the form of 000×4 IU/ml. Low viral load in this case will be between 110 IU/ml and 600×3 IU/ml.

But there is also an average – from 3×10 IU/ml to 8×105 IU/ml.

When the amount of hepatitis virus in the blood is beyond 8×105 IU/ml or 800 IU/ml according to another classification.

In some cases, the laboratory can be wrong. There are incorrect storage conditions for blood, as well as different methods of obtaining research results in different laboratories. And in such cases, one or more indicators will be overestimated. In this case, you need to donate blood for analysis again. If it is not the first time that blood is donated, then it is better to choose the same laboratory.

Methods for reducing indicators

It is extremely difficult to get rid of the virus or reduce the existing indicators to normal values, since such a disease manifests itself most often in liver diseases. However, a decrease in viral load is possible. In some cases, it even happens on its own, without the patient’s actions. But most often you just need to take the prescribed therapy and follow the doctor’s recommendations.

The possibility of reduction is influenced by various factors:

  • Floor.
  • Age.
  • Chronic forms of pathology.
  • Accompanying illnesses.
  • Contraindications or small effect from diseases.
  • How long has a person been infected.

If the treatment is effective enough, then the treatment bears fruit within a few days. In this case, the test results show a decrease in viral load. The viral load is not a constant value; its concentration can decrease and increase depending on a variety of factors.

However, in addition to medications, there are also non-drug methods of reducing the load:

  • Diet – give up fried and spicy.
  • Avoiding alcohol.
  • Avoiding foods and drinks that negatively affect the liver.
  • Active lifestyle.
  • Do not eat at night.
  • Walks in the open air.

This is complemented by medications prescribed by the doctor. All this together will help the patient to transfer the acute form of the disease into a latent one. It is also important to consider whether there are contraindications to both medications and dietary nutrition or exercise.

It should be remembered that even a small decrease in viral load helps to slow down infection and cell death.

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Svetlana Borszavich

General practitioner, cardiologist, with active work in therapy, gastroenterology, cardiology, rheumatology, immunology with allergology.
Fluent in general clinical methods for the diagnosis and treatment of heart disease, as well as electrocardiography, echocardiography, monitoring of cholera on an ECG and daily monitoring of blood pressure.
The treatment complex developed by the author significantly helps with cerebrovascular injuries and metabolic disorders in the brain and vascular diseases: hypertension and complications caused by diabetes.
The author is a member of the European Society of Therapists, a regular participant in scientific conferences and congresses in the field of cardiology and general medicine. She has repeatedly participated in a research program at a private university in Japan in the field of reconstructive medicine.