Why Hep C Tests Are False At Times?


For the majority of cases, the test results of the hepatitis C virus (HCV) come to be definitive and accurate. The tests mostly state the individual’s liver damage conditions over the time due to the virus infection. However, often there are a few rare cases that may show false positive results for the same.

People often tend to ponder on both these situations, so here are a few pieces of information on the same that will prove to be a real help!

Tests for Hep C

The initial test that is conducted to identify the disease is known as an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, or ELISA, screen test. The test looks for the antibodies that the immune system develops against the hep c virus infection.

The second test is a hep C RNA test, which helps in detecting the evidence of the actual virus traces in the bloodstream. The RNA test is far more expensive for the general screening purposes. It is mostly used as a confirmatory test only in case an individual’s ELISA tests are positive.

Natural Clearance

  • Approximately 1 out of every 4 individuals infected with hepatitis C virus automatically clear the virus on their own. When the tests are performed, the clearance is already complete, so in such cases, the ELISA test will test the individual as positive while the RNA test will automatically hold a negative result.
  • These contradictory results mostly happen as the antibodies against the hep C remains in the body while the hep c virus itself is gone.
  • However, it is very difficult to clearly determine if the person spontaneously cleared the virus or remained to be a false positive for other reasons.


False Positives

  • A false positive case comes up when the ELISA test is positive for hep C antibodies, however, the individual was never ever exposed to the hep C virus. Here, the following RNA test automatically reads as negative.
  • The problem in this case is that the antibodies produced by the immune system for combating the infections other than hep C can be “cross-reactive”. ELISA test will keep picking up on these antibodies’ itself and always show a positive result.
  • This means those who test false positive results will continue doing this all their life, regardless of the reason. Each time an RNA test will be needed to accurately diagnose a probable hep c virus infection.
  • There is a very less likely percentage of lab error possibility for a false positive or a false negative test result.


False Negatives

  • False negative mainly occurs due to the “window period” condition— i.e. the time after infection and just before the antibodies formation by the immune system.
  • For hepatitis C, this period is around four to six weeks. During this period as there are no antibodies to be detected, the ELISA turns out to be negative. However, an RNA test identifies the presence of the hep C virus.
  • People with suppressed immune systems are more prone to false negative as they have low rated antibodies developing capacity.


These are the prime reasons as to why hepatitis C tests may be false! Even though the identification may come up slow, there is a number of effective medicines like- Hepcinat Lp, sofos and ledifos combination, natdac, etc. to make the treatment process is effective and prompt.