Chapter 31: Common in vitro tests for allergy and immunology

Makhija, M.; O'Gorman, M. R.

Allergy Asthma Proc. 2012 Jul 20; 33 Suppl 1:108-11

Abstract

Allergen-specific IgE antibody is the most commonly ordered in vitro test in the practice of allergy and is used to diagnose type I hypersensitivity reactions to foods or reactivity to aeroallergens in patients with relative contraindications to skin-prick testing such as dermatographism. The Phadebas radioallergosorbent test (RAST; Pharmacia, Uppsala, Sweden) was the first assay reported for the detection of the allergen-specific IgE antibody. In a RAST, antigen (allergen) is bound to a solid phase, such as a paper disk, and then incubated with human serum. A buffer wash removes unbound serum proteins, and radiolabeled anti-human IgE is added to detect bound IgE, if present. The results are reported in arbitrary units of IgE per milliliter of serum. The term RAST was originally a brand name but it is now often used colloquially (and incorrectly) to describe any in vitro assay for allergen-specific IgE. Total serum IgE can be measured and is helpful in determining atopic presentations such as in allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis or in patients with persistent asthma who are candidates for monoclonal anti-IgE antibody therapy with, omalizumab. In patients with recurrent bacterial infections of the sinopulmonary tract, the basic humoral immune system testing includes measuring quantitative immunoglobulins (IgG, IgA, and IgM) and comparing them to age-matched normal ranges. Most clinical laboratories use nephelometry to measure immunoglobulin levels quantitatively. Nephelometry detects either the rate or the end point of soluble immune complex formation (the IgG in sera complexes with an anti-IgG antibody forming a classic immunoprecipitation reaction) by monitoring the scatter of transmitted light. The most common method for the screening of cellular immunodeficiency involved the measurement of the absolute and relative representation of the major lymphocyte subsets, T-cells, T-helper cells, T-cytotoxic cells, B-cells and NK-cells.

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