Hepatitis antibodies are cells produced by the body to help fight the different types of hepatitis. These antibodies are of vital importance not only because they help the body control the invading disease, but they also serve as markers that can help diagnose the presence of the disease. The antibodies are different for each type of hepatitis.
The most common types of hepatitis are A, B and C. There is a hepatitis D, but it is only found alongside B. In each case, the tests for these diseases require the drawing of blood and testing for the hepatitis antibodies that the body has produced in order to combat them. The presence of these antibodies indicate the presence of the virus.
The first hepatitis antibodies produced are in the form of different types of immunoglobulin M (IgM). These molecules are produced by the immune system to fight viruses that are found in the blood stream. The presence of IgM anti-hepatitis A virus antibodies signifies a case of hepatitis A wherein the individual has not been infected for long. After some time, the body produces both IgM and immunoglobin G (IgG), the latter of which remains in the body even after the infection has gone. This is also the antibody that is typically given in vaccines against the disease.
Tests for hepatitis B look for several antibodies. The hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) is produced by the body just after it contracts the infection and indicates that it is a fairly recent occurrence. Hepatitis B surface antibody (HBsAb) is produced by the body after the infection has run its course and indicates an infection that has been active for some time or one that is already gone. These hepatitis antibodies also serve as a natural vaccination to keep the body from contracting the disease again.
Antibodies for hepatitis C act and are detected in a similar way. The presence of hepatitis C virus antibody (HCV Ab) indicates that the body has once been exposed to the infection or is currently fighting one. If this test comes back positive, medical professionals can order further tests to determine the body's current status.
Hepatitis A is the least severe of the types, and these hepatitis antibodies are capable of removing the infection from the blood stream completely. With this complete removal, the condition does not relapse or become chronic, and the presence of IgG helps protect against future infections. The other types of hepatitis can become chronic, and even with the virus and the antibodies still in the system, the infection can be passed from one person to another.