Serology is a blood test to detect the presence of antibodies against a microorganism. Certain microorganisms stimulate the body to produce antibodies during an active infection.
Blood is drawn from a vein, usually from the inside of the elbow or the back of the hand. The site is cleaned with germ-killing medicine (antiseptic). The health care provider wraps an elastic band around the upper arm to apply pressure to the area and make the vein swell with blood.
Next, the health care provider gently inserts a needle into the vein. The blood collects into an airtight vial or tube attached to the needle. The elastic band is removed from your arm.
Once the blood has been collected, the needle is removed, and the puncture site is covered to stop any bleeding.
In infants or young children, a sharp tool called a lancet may be used to puncture the skin and make it bleed. The blood collects into a small glass tube called a pipette, or onto a slide or test strip. A bandage may be placed over the area if there is any bleeding.
The blood is then analyzed in a laboratory to determine how certain antibodies react with specific antigens. The test can be used to confirm the identity of the specific microorganism.
There are several serology techniques that can be used depending on the suspected antibodies. Serology techniques include agglutination, precipitation, complement-fixation, fluorescent antibodies, and others.
There is no special preparation.
When the needle is inserted to draw blood, some people feel moderate pain, while others feel only a prick or stinging sensation. Afterward, there may be some throbbing.
A serology test can determine if you have ever been exposed to a particular microorganism, but this does not necessarily indicate a current infection.
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