Glossary of terms
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”.
Adefovir dipivoxil: an antiviral medication used in the treatment of chronic hepatitis B infection.
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 attach 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.
Biopsy: the removal of a tiny piece of tissue for microscopic examination. Liver biopsies are used to determine the amount of liver damage present.
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 GP’s, nurses and specialist doctors.
Disclosure: the act of releasing information which might ordinarily be kept guarded. For the purposes of HepatitisWA, this usually refers to a person telling others that he/she is hepatitis B/C positive. It is not a legal requirement, except for specific circumstances, for anyone to know the hepatitis status of another.
Entecavir: an antiviral medication used in the treatment of chronic hepatitis B infection.
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®: a pre-packaged, black plastic container housing five sterile needles (fits). Once used, the fits can be put back into the Fitpack® for safe disposal. Fitpack Plus® contains three fits, as well as water, a spoon and sterile swabs. These can be purchased from some pharmacies or Needle and Syringe Programs. Phone HepatitisWA for more details.
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.
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 HBV 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.
HBV: hepatitis B virus.
HCV: hepatitis C virus.
Hepatitis: inflammation of the liver usually associated with liver cell injury.
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.
Lamivudine: an antiviral medication used in the treatment of chronic hepatitis B infection. Also used in the treatment of HIV.
LFTs (Liver Function Tests): tests performed to monitor liver health. These tests include the ALT and AST tests.
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.
Ribavirin: an oral antiviral medication used as part of combination therapy for hepatitis C.
Sero-conversion: literally “blood change”. The point at which there are enough antibodies in the blood stream to be detectable by blood test.
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.
Tenofovir: antiviral medication used in the treatment of chronic hepatitis B infection. Also used in the treatment of HIV.
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.
Ultrasound: a medical imaging technique which uses high frequency sound waves to create pictures of internal tissues and organs.
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.
Window period: the time between the point of infection and the ability for tests to show a positive result.
Page last updated: Friday 30 July, 2010