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

HCV is an infection that affects a person’s liver. It can be hard to detect, as 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 either have acute or chronic HCV. The American Liver Foundation notes that around 15–25% of people who have acute HCV will recover without treatment. However, around 75–85% of people who have HCV will develop chronic HCV. A person with chronic HCV will require treatment to cure them of the infection.

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

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

SVR is when a person has no detectable HCV in their blood 3 months after their treatment ends. This means that the HCV virus is no longer replicating in a person’s body.

HCV is a treatable condition. The United States Department of Veterans Affairs notes that around 95% of people treated for HCV achieve SVR.

Subtypes of HCV that produce lower SVR rates

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

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

HCV-3 occurs in 22–30% of people with HCV. HCV-3 causes a person to be at higher risk of:

A person who has HCV-3 has an 85–95% rate of achieving SVR.

Learn more about treatment cures for HCV here.

Around 99% of people who have SVR are considered cured of HCV. In rare instances, a person may have a relapse of HCV. However, the risk of relapse once a person has SVR is around 1%.

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

A person can be reinfected with HCV even after they have SVR. It is important that a person takes precautions after achieving SVR, including:

  • avoiding used or dirty needles
  • only using sterilized needles or ink for tattoos
  • only using sterilized needles for body piercings
  • not sharing a toothbrush, razor, or nail clippers with someone who has HCV
  • 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 their viral load. The blood test for HCV detects the RNA of the virus. RNA is a molecule that is similar to DNA.

A person 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 the amount is undetectable.

Learn more about HCV testing here.

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

SVR does not guarantee a person’s liver will heal from damage due to HCV. However, the progress 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 about liver function tests here.

A person who has SVR may retest after 6–12 months to check for relapse. After this test, a person will no longer require viral load testing.

Certain healthcare professionals may request that a person check their liver function periodically. These checks help the healthcare professional assess how a person’s liver is functioning after HCV.

A person who has had HCV may have developed liver complications due to the virus. If a person has any liver issues, they should speak with their doctor about tests or treatments they may need.

A person who has HCV cannot donate blood. A person who has been cured of HCV will still have antibodies of the virus in the blood. This means they will always test positive for HCV antibodies.

Currently, a person who has had HCV at any time cannot donate blood.

Learn more about donating plasma with HCV here.

HCV is an infection that affects a person’s liver. A person who has HCV may find it goes away by itself, or they may require treatment.

Periodically, doctors will measure the viral load of a person who has HCV via 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 SVR. A person with SVR is considered cured of HCV.

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

Following SVR, a person may require certain follow-up tests. A person who developed complications while having HCV may require additional tests and treatment.

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