These tests generally include, tests that are carried out in various laboratories for the purpose of diagnosing certain infectious diseases. Immunologic tests employ an antigen to detect presence of antibodies to a pathogen, or an antibody to detect the presence of an antigen, of the pathogen in the specimens of the victim. Certain popular immunological tests include - Agglutination tests, Complement fixation, Enzyme immunoassays, Precipitation tests, Western blot test.
There are immunological tests for many different medical conditions and purposes – for instance, to test for an allergy, to screen for bowel cancer or to find out if a woman is pregnant. They can be used to carry out routine tests in hospitals and laboratories, to do quick tests yourself at home, as well as in family doctors’ and specialists’ practices.
How do they work?
Certain substances or pathogens (germs) in your body can be detected with the help of immunological techniques. The things that can be detected include viruses, hormones and the blood pigment hemoglobin. The tests take advantage of the body’s immune system: In order to fight germs or foreign substances, the immune system produces antibodies. Antibodies are proteins that can bind to a specific germ or substance, just like a key fits into a specific keyhole. They “catch” the germs or substances, neutralize them and attract other immune cells.
The immunological tests used in laboratories are made by producing artificial antibodies that exactly “match” the substance or germ in question. When these antibodies come into contact with a sample of blood, urine or stool, they bind to the matching substance or germ if found in the sample. This reaction shows that the germ or substance is present.
What happens during the test?
As mentioned above, immunological tests contain specific antibodies that bind to the substance or germ that is being looked for. In some tests this reaction is visible to the naked eye. For example, in tests to determine your blood group, the blood coagulates (clumps together) on the test card. In other tests, the reaction has to be made visible using a fluorescent dye or an enzyme.
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