A solid phase M-antibody capture radioimmunoassay (MACRIA) and a serum fractionation method were used to quantitate the IgM response to the hepatitis B core antigen (IgM anti-HBc) in acute and chronic hepatitis B infections.
Antibody to the core antigen was predominantly of the IgM class during theacute phase of hepatitis B. Resolving acute infections remained positive by MACRIA, but at decreasing levels, for as long as 6 months. IgM anti-HBc persisted in HBsAg carriers but at levels very much lower than seen in acute infections. There was no correlation of IgM anti-HBc with severity of chronic liver disease in carriers.
Measurement of IgM anti-HBc by MACRIA enabled accurate identification of acute hepatitis B on single serum specimens.