for Veterans and the Public
Hepatitis C RNA qualitative testing
The qualitative HCV RNA tests use either a process called polymerase chain reaction (PCR) or a process called transcription-mediated amplification (TMA). Either type of qualitative test will report whether the hepatitis C virus is present in the bloodstream or not. The result is reported as either "detected" or "not detected."
Explanation of test results:
If a qualitative RNA test is positive (detected), then it is confirmed that the patient has chronic hepatitis C. The "qualitative" test is more accurate than the "quantitative" test because qualitative tests are able to detect very low levels of the virus.
Other things to know:
- If a patient has a quantitative test that shows no detectable virus, but has a positive result with the qualitative test, it means there is a very low level of virus that can be detected only with the qualitative test.
- The qualitative test will show a negative result when patients have a successful response to interferon treatment.
- The qualitative test result also will be negative when patients clear the hepatitis C virus on their own, soon after infection, or "spontaneously."