An antibody is a protein produced by the body's immune system when it detects harmful substances, called antigens. Examples of antigens include microorganisms (bacteria, fungi, parasites, and viruses) and chemicals.
Antibodies may be produced when the immune system mistakenly considers healthy tissue a harmful substance. This is called an autoimmune disorder.
Each type of antibody is unique and defends the body against one specific type of antigen.
Update Date 10/27/2014
Updated by: Laura J. Martin, MD, MPH, ABIM Board Certified in Internal Medicine and Hospice and Palliative Medicine, Atlanta, GA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.