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Your immune system performs many important functions, the most important of which is to fight infections.
If your body is having trouble fighting an infection for an unknown reason, a sample may be sent to an immunology clinical laboratory in California to be tested and analyzed.
Immunology tests typically focus on identifying proteins made by white blood cells known as antibodies, identifying possible problems with the immune system, and determining compatibility of organ tissues for transplants. Testing of this nature may also be ordered to determine if current treatments are effective.
Evaluating Levels of Antigens and Antibodies
Antigens are foreign substances that cause your immune system to produce antibodies. Immune globulin tests are performed to measure how many antibodies are within your immune system. High concentrations indicate your body is fighting an infection. However, levels that are too low could make your susceptible to certain diseases or infections. There are five different antibodies the human body can produce: IgA, IgG, IgM, IgE, and IgD. High levels of one or more of these antibodies often indicates conditions such as chronic or viral hepatitis, AIDS, rheumatoid arthritis, and some forms of cancer.
The antibodies identified through testing at an immunology clinical laboratory in California will provide clues as to where an infection is located within your body. Your medical history and symptoms presented will give your doctor additional direction to determine what may be the source of an infection. Levels of all five different types of antibodies can be determined with a gamma globulin test that’s performed on a blood sample.
Infectious Disease Serology Tests
The testing performed at an immunology clinical laboratory in California includes serology tests. Widely considered the most effective method of detection for infectious diseases, serology testing can identify various viral, fungal, and parasitic infectious diseases. Your doctor may order a serology test if you have a known immunodeficiency or if you are undergoing a routine screening during pregnancy.
Techniques such as ELISA (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay) are used to detect proteins, antibodies, and other substances in samples for the purpose of identifying infectious diseases. Some tests may take several days to complete if time is needed to allow cells to grow. Serology assays may also identify:
- Measles, mumps, and rubella
- Lyme disease
- Food allergies and other allergic diseases
Collecting Samples for Immunology Tests
Samples delivered to an immunology laboratory are typically collected in a red stopper, serum separator tube (SST) or similar standard collection tube. It’s done like another blood test. However, there is usually no need to fast prior to having blood drawn for an immunology or serology test. A small needle is inserted into a vein that’s determined to be viable for collecting the sample. The tube will be identified and stored immediately to keep it safe. The test sample will then be delivered to the lab for analysis.
Reasons for Immunology Testing
Because of the diverse and expansive nature of the immune system, there are many possible reasons why a test may be ordered. Other than diagnosing or confirming an infectious disease or potential immune system problem, testing may be done to determine if an infection you were being treated for has cleared up entirely. Reasons for immunology testing may also include:
- Screening for immune system issues in advance of pregnancy
- Testing in advance of traveling abroad
- Determining appropriate levels of immune suppression drugs following a transplant
- Checking to see if medications being taken to manage a condition are effective
- Testing to monitor a chronic immune disorder
Normal vs. Abnormal Values
“Normal” for immunology test results is defined by levels of various antibodies that are typically expected to be present in a healthy individual. There are acceptable levels for each of the five types of antibodies in the human body, with IgG making up about 80 percent of antibodies in serum in healthy persons. In some cases, the very presence of certain antibodies suggests that an infection exists. “Abnormal” is defined as levels of antibodies not typically found in a healthy individual. It’s these findings that provide the information doctors need to interpret results for diagnostic purposes.
Results produced by an immunology clinical laboratory in California are presented in a clear, detailed report. Your doctor will review what was discovered when a sample was analyzed to determine what’s going on with your immune system and explain those results to you. Abnormalities could indicate that certain medications are needed to manage an infection or any medications you are currently taking may have to be adjusted or changed. If a previous undetected condition is identified from a test, treatment recommendations may be made. Other clinical tests are sometimes necessary to provide additional details.