Also Known As
Anti-HAV
Formal Name
Viral hepatitis A antibodies
This article was last reviewed on
This article waslast modified on 26 November 2018.
At a Glance
Why Get Tested?

To diagnose an infection with hepatitis A virus, or to find out the need for or the response to hepatitis A vaccination

When To Get Tested?

If you have symptoms of an infection with or have been exposed to the hepatitis A virus; to detect previous infection or vaccination

Sample Required?

A blood sample taken from a vein in your arm

Test Preparation Needed?

None required

On average it takes 7 working days for the blood test results to come back from the hospital, depending on the exact tests requested. Some specialist test results may take longer, if samples have to be sent to a reference (specialist) laboratory. The X-ray & scan results may take longer. If you are registered to use the online services of your local practice, you will be able to access your results online.

If the doctor wants to see you about the result(s), you will be offered an appointment. If you are concerned about your test results, you will need to arrange an appointment with your doctor so that all relevant information including age, ethnicity, health history, signs and symptoms, laboratory and other procedures (radiology, endoscopy, etc.), can be considered.

Lab Tests Online-UK is an educational website designed to provide patients and carers with information on laboratory tests used in medical care. We are not a laboratory and are unable to comment on an individual's health and treatment.

Reference ranges are dependent on many factors, including patient age, gender, sample population, and test method, and numeric test results can have different meanings in different laboratories.

For these reasons, you will not find reference ranges for the majority of tests described on this web site. The lab report containing your test results should include the relevant reference range for your test(s). Please consult your doctor or the laboratory that performed the test(s) to obtain the reference range if you do not have the lab report.

For more information on reference ranges, please read Reference Ranges and What They Mean.

What is being tested?

Hepatitis A antibodies are produced in response to an infection with the hepatitis A virus. The test detects the presence of this antibody.

How is the sample collected for testing?

A blood sample is taken by needle from a vein in the arm.

Is any test preparation needed to ensure the quality of the sample?

None required

Accordion Title
Common Questions
  • How is it used?

    There are two kinds of antibody to the hepatitis A virus (HAV).  

    IgM (immunoglobulin M) is the first antibody produced by the body when it is exposed to a virus (remove glossary). This test is used to detect HAV infection in a patient with evidence of acute hepatitis, such as jaundice, dark urine, pale coloured stools, fever and loss of appetite. It appears two to three weeks after infection and has disappeared after two to four months.

    IgG (immunoglobulin G) antibody develops later, continues to rise for several months and usually remains present for life, protecting the person against further infection by the same virus.

    There is a specific test for HAV IgM antibody and a positive result is diagnostic of an existing HAV infection. There is no accepted test that is specific for HAV IgG antibody so a ‘total’ test that recognises both kinds of antibody is used. If the IgM test is negative, a positive test for total HAV antibodies is evidence of past infection or vaccination.

  • When is it requested?

    Testing for the presence of IgM antibodies to hepatitis A is done if you have the symptoms or are likely to have been exposed to the virus. If you are being considered for the HAV vaccine, a total antibody test may be requested before you are given the vaccine to see if you need it (if the antibodies are already present, the vaccine won’t help you). Once you have completed the two doses of the vaccine, the total HAV antibody test can also be used to see if you have responded to the vaccine.

  • What does the test result mean?

    If the total HAV test result is positive, the IgM antibody test is negative and you have not been given the HAV vaccine, you have had a hepatitis A infection in the past - even if you were not aware of it. About 30% of adults over age 40 have antibodies to HAV. If you have been given the vaccine, a positive result means you are immune to HAV and cannot be infected by it.

  • Is there anything else I should know?

    It is presumed that one infection with hepatitis A produces lasting immunity against further infections.

    If a test is done after a vaccination and is negative it does not necessarily indicate the lack of immunity. This occurs because the lab assays do not detect low levels very reliably.

  • How could I have been infected with the virus without knowing it?

    The virus is found in contaminated water and faeces. You may have eaten raw fruit or vegetables handled by an infected person who did not wash their hands properly or you may have eaten raw or poorly cooked seafood that had fed in contaminated waters. Children are often infected by HAV and either do not become sick or have very mild symptoms such as fever and diarrhoea, and are often thought to have "flu".

  • Is there any way to prevent the disease?

    Yes. There is a vaccine available. It is recommended for people traveling to specific countries, and for those who have damage to their liver from some other cause.

  • Can I perform this test at home?

    No. The test is done by trained laboratory staff.