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Antibody titer blood test

Antibody titer is a laboratory test that measures the level of antibodies in a blood sample.

How the Test is Performed

How to Prepare for the Test

No special preparation is necessary for this test.

How the Test will Feel

When the needle is inserted to draw blood, some people feel moderate pain. Others feel only a prick or stinging. Afterward, there may be some throbbing or slight bruising. This soon goes away.

Why the Test is Performed

The antibody level (titer) in the blood tells your health care provider whether or not you have been exposed to an antigen or something that the body thinks is foreign. The body uses antibodies to attack and remove foreign substances.

In some situations, your provider may check your antibody titer to see if you had an infection in the past (for example, chickenpox) or to decide which vaccines you need.

The antibody titer is also used to determine:

  • The strength of an immune response to the body's own tissue in diseases such as systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and other autoimmune disorders
  • If you need a booster vaccine
  • Whether a vaccine you had before helped your immune system protect you against the specific disease
  • If you have had a recent or past infection such as mononucleosis or viral hepatitis

Normal Results

Normal values depend on the antibody being tested.

If the test is being done to look for antibodies against your own body tissues, the normal value would be zero or negative. In some cases, a normal level is below a specific number.

If the test is being done to see if a vaccine fully protects you against a disease, the normal result depends on the specific value for that immunization.

Negative antibody tests can help rule out certain infections.

Normal value ranges may vary slightly among different laboratories. Talk to your provider about the meaning of your specific test results.

What Abnormal Results Mean

Abnormal results depend on which antibodies are being measured.

Abnormal results may be due to:

  • Autoimmune disease
  • Failure of a vaccine to fully protect you against a certain disease
  • Immune deficiency
  • Viral infections

Risks

Veins vary in size from one person to another and from one side of the body to the other. Obtaining a blood sample from some people may be more difficult than from others.

Risks associated with having blood drawn are slight but may include:

  • Excessive bleeding
  • Fainting or feeling lightheaded
  • Hematoma (blood accumulating under the skin)
  • Infection (a slight risk any time the skin is broken)

Alternative Names

Titer - antibodies; Serum antibodies

References

Kroger AT, Pickering LK, Wharton M, Mawle A, Hinman AR, Orenstein WA. Immunization. In: Bennett JE, Dolin R, Blaser MJ, eds. Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 321.

McPherson RA, Riley RS, Massey HD. Laboratory evaluation of immunoglobulin function and humoral immunity. In: McPherson RA, Pincus MR, eds. Henry's Clinical Diagnosis and Management by Laboratory Methods. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:chap 46.

Review Date 5/17/2016

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.

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