Glossary

The following terms are used by this website and in relation to the diagnosis and management of hepatitis B and hepatitis C.

A

Acute: an infection lasting less than six months. The body can sometimes rid itself of a hepatitis virus without medical intervention. If this has not occurred by six months, the infection is classed as “chronic”.

ALT: Alanine aminotransferase. An enzyme released into the blood stream by liver cells during hepatitis. Used, in conjunction with other tests, as a measure, or indicator, of liver health.

Alternative medicine: practices not generally recognised by the mainstream medical sector. These include chiropractic, naturopathy, acupuncture, Chinese medicine and homeopathy.

Antibodies: proteins produced by the immune system to tag and neutralise specific viruses, bacteria or other antigens.

Antigen: foreign substances, including viruses and bacteria, capable of causing disease.

Anti-HCV: antibodies produced by the body to attack the hepatitis C virus.

AST: Aspartate aminotransferase. Levels of this enzyme in the blood stream rise during hepatitis. This test is often used in conjunction with the ALT test to monitor liver health.

B

Biopsy: the removal of a tiny piece of tissue for microscopic examination. Due to the availability of less-invasive assessment technologies, liver biopsies are now used less commonly to determine the amount of liver damage present.

C

Chronic: an infection lasting longer than six months. If the body has been unable to clear the virus after six months, it is likely to be present life-long.

Cirrhosis: scarring and inflammation of the liver to the point where blood flow is restricted and liver function is therefore reduced.

Clear (the hepatitis virus): viral levels in the blood are at levels so low, they are undetectable in tests.

Combination therapy: the simultaneous use of weekly pegylated interferon injections and daily ribavirin capsules or tablets for treatment of hepatitis C.

Complementary medicine: non-invasive, non-pharmaceutical therapy techniques usually used in conjunction with medical treatments. These may include massage, acupuncture and herbal remedies.

Contra-indications: factors which might make a particular treatment ineffective or dangerous. These could include alcoholism, asthma, depression, pregnancy or serious injury.

Conventional medicine: the health care practiced and endorsed by mainstream medical staff such as GPs, nurses and specialist doctors.

D

Disclosure: the act of releasing information which might ordinarily be kept guarded. This includes telling others about a positive hepatitis B or C status. It is not a legal requirement, except for specific circumstances, for anyone to know the hepatitis status of another person.

F

Fibrosis: the formation of scar-like (fibrous) tissue. This can occur anywhere in the body, however in the case of hepatitis, “fibrosis” occurs in the liver.

Fibrosis stage: a system used to categorise the extent of fibrosis within the liver.

Fitpack: pre-packaged injecting equipment. Once used, the “fits” can be put back into the Fitpack for safe disposal.

G

Genotype: the class or strain of the virus. Each genotype is similar enough to belong to the same viral family, however there are slight genetic differences which may cause alternate immune system responses or treatment outcomes.

H

HBcAb or Anti-HBc: hepatitis B core antibody. HBcAb are produced in response to the core antigen and is detectable in blood tests. Only people who have been infected with hepatitis B will produce these antibodies.  HBcAb are the first antibodies developed after infection with hepatitis B.

HBcAg: hepatitis B core antigen is found only in the liver and is not detected in a blood test. However, detectable antibodies will be produced against the antigen. Only people who have been infected with hepatitis B will produce the antibodies to the core antigen.

HBeAb: hepatitis B “e” antibody. HBeAb indicates that the virus is less active which usually means less liver damage.

HBeAg: hepatitis B “e” antigen. The second antigen to appear after infection, it indicates that the virus is actively replicating (reproducing) in the liver.

HBsAb: hepatitis B surface antibody. The last antibody to appear in hepatitis B infection, HBsAb indicates immunity. Immunity may occur either through vaccination or through having had the virus and naturally cleared it. In both cases HBsAb will be detectable in the blood.

HBsAg: hepatitis B surface antigen. The first antigen to appear after infection with hepatitis B. This indicates current infection.

HAV: hepatitis A virus

 HBV: hepatitis B virus.

HCV: hepatitis C virus.

Hepatitis: inflammation of the liver usually associated with liver cell injury.

I

Interferon: a natural protein in the body’s immune system which stimulates the growth of some disease-fighting cells. By giving hepatitis B or C positive patients extra interferon during treatment, their own immune response to the presence of the virus is effectively boosted.

L

LFTs (Liver Function Tests): tests performed to monitor liver health. These tests include the ALT and AST tests.

P

PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction): a test which can be used to detect the genetic material, DNA or RNA, of hepatitis B and C. It can also be used to determine viral load and genotype.

Pegylated: the interferon is attached to molecules of polyethylene glycol (PEG), enabling the drug to last longer in the human body.

R

Ribavirin: an oral antiviral medication used as part of combination therapy for hepatitis C.

S

Sero-conversion: literally “blood change”. The point at which there are enough antibodies in the blood stream to be detectable by blood test.

Sero-status: a person is either seropositive or seronegative; meaning either the individual tests positive or negative for the specific antibodies that are present after exposure to specific antigen (in this case, either hepatitis C or hepatitis B).

Side Effects: unwanted effects of a treatment or medication.

SVR: sustained viral response (to antiviral treatment).

Symptoms: changes in the body or its functioning indicating infection.

T

Therapeutic: treatment used to assist in clearing infection and /or healing the body.

Transmission: passage or transfer of virus from one person to another causing infection.

U

Ultrasound: a medical imaging technique which uses high frequency sound waves to create pictures of internal tissues and organs.

V

Viral levels / viral load: the amount of virus present in the positive person’s bloodstream, measured by a PCR quantitative test.

Virus: a microscopic organism that invades body cells and may cause illness. Viruses take over the host cells in order to expand in numbers, as they do not have the machinery to reproduce independently.

W

Window period: the time between the point of infection and the ability for tests to show a positive result.