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.
Abbas AK, Lichtman AH, Pillai S. Antibodies and antigens. In: Abbas AK, Lichtman AH, Pillai S, eds. Cellular and Molecular Immunology. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 5.
Review Date 8/13/2020
Updated by: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.