SVR and hepatitis C: a guide

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A sustained virologic response (SVR) may indicate that treatment for hepatitis C virus (HCV) has been successful. In most cases, having an SVR means that a person’s liver will no longer be damaged by HCV.

HCV is an infection that affects a person’s liver. It can be difficult to detect because it does not always cause symptoms. Many people with HCV do not know they have it until they develop liver damage.

A person who has HCV can have acute or chronic HCV. The American Liver Foundation notes that approximately 15-25% of people with acute HCV will recover without treatment. However, about 75 to 85% of people infected with HCV will develop chronic HCV. A person with chronic HCV will need treatment to cure them of the infection.

If a person successfully recovers from HCV, they will have an SVR. Read on to learn more about SVR, what it means, and how doctors are testing it.

During treatment for HCV, a doctor monitors the levels of the virus in a person’s blood. The goal of HCV treatment is to reduce the amount of HCV in a person’s blood to undetectable levels.

SVR is when a person does not have detectable HCV in their blood 3 months after the end of their treatment. This means that the HCV virus no longer replicates in a person’s body.

HCV is a treatable disease. The United States Department of Veterans Affairs notes that about 95% of people treated for HCV get SVR.

HCV subtypes that produce lower SVR rates

2018 news notes that people with decompensated cirrhosis and HCV genotype 3 (HCV-3) may have reduced rates of SVR. Decompensated cirrhosis occurs when a person has scarring on the liver that leads to:

A person who develops decompensated cirrhosis from HCV is at serious risk of life-threatening complications. They have about an 85% chance of achieving SVR.

HCV-3 is present in 22-30% people infected with HCV. HCV-3 increases the risk of:

A person infected with HCV-3 has an 85-95% rate of achieving SVR.

To learn more about curative treatments for HCV, click here.

About 99% of people with SVR are considered cured of HCV. In rare cases, a person can relapse from HCV. However, the risk of relapse once a person has an SVR is around 1%.

Once a person has SVR, they can no longer pass HCV to other people.

A person can be re-infected with HCV even after an SVR. It is important that a person take precautions after achieving SVR, including:

  • avoid worn or dirty needles
  • use only sterilized needles or ink for tattoos
  • only use sterilized needles for body piercings
  • do not share a toothbrush, razor, or nail clipper with someone who has HCV infection
  • not having unprotected sex

A doctor uses a blood test to check the amount of HCV in a person’s blood. The amount of HCV a person has is known as the viral load. The blood test for HCV detects the RNA of the virus. RNA is a molecule similar to DNA.

A person infected with HCV will have viral load tests throughout their treatment. These tests help healthcare professionals determine how a person is responding to HCV treatment.

Healthcare professionals measure viral load levels in international units per liter (IU / L). If a person has an HCV viral load of less than 15 IU / L, it means that the amount is undetectable.

Learn more about HCV testing here.

In in most cases, once a person has SVR, HCV no longer damages their liver. A person with SVR may find that their liver function tests return to normal. They may also find that their liver function improves.

SVR does not guarantee that a person’s liver will heal from damage caused by HCV. However, the progression of cirrhosis and liver complications slows down once a person has SVR.

If a person has fatty liver disease or drinks alcohol after SVR, their liver damage may continue.

Learn more about liver function tests here.

A person who has SVR can retest after 6-12 months to check for relapse. After this test, a person will no longer need a viral load test.

Some healthcare professionals may ask a person to check their liver function periodically. These checks help the healthcare professional assess how well a person’s liver is functioning after HCV.

A person who has had HCV may have developed liver complications from the virus. If a person has liver problems, they should talk to their doctor about any tests or treatment they may need.

A person infected with HCV cannot donate blood. A person who has been cured of HCV will still have antibodies to the virus in their blood. This means that they will always test positive for anti-HCV antibodies.

Currently, someone who has contracted HCV at any time can not donate blood.

Learn more about donating plasma with HCV here.

HCV is an infection that affects a person’s liver. A person infected with HCV may find the virus to go away on its own or may require treatment.

Periodically, doctors will measure the viral load of a person infected with HCV through a blood test. These tests help a doctor determine how a person is responding to HCV treatment. Once a person has an undetectable level of HCV in their blood, they have an SVR. A person with SVR is considered cured of HCV.

Having an SVR means that a person no longer experiences liver damage from HCV. They may find that their liver function returns to normal.

After SVR, a person may require certain follow-up tests. A person who developed complications while being infected with HCV may require additional testing and treatment.

Even when a person’s treatment for HCV is successful, they cannot donate blood.


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