Definitions of Acute HCV Infection
Most commonly, acute hepatitis C infection is defined as the 6-month time period following acquisition of hepatitis C virus. The definition of acute hepatitis C is irrespective to whether the patient has clinical signs or symptoms of acute hepatitis. The rationale for choosing 6 months as the time period to define acute infection is based on evidence that most individuals who clear HCV will do so by 6 months.
Terminology Related to Acute HCV Infection
Clinical reviews and research studies have used numerous terms to refer to acute hepatitis C infection, including acute infection, acute phase infection, very early infection, recent infection, and newly acquired infection. Overall, consensus does not exists regarding the terminology and criteria for defining acute HCV infection. Very early infection typically refers to patients with a positive HCV RNA and documented HCV antibody seroconversion and this scenario is the most definitive for diagnosing acute HCV infection. Some experts have suggested limiting the multiple possible terms to acute infection and recent infection:
- Acute Infection = estimated duration of infection less than 6 months
- Recent Infection = estimated duration of infection longer than 6 months, but shorter than 2 years.