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Antibodies are proteins made by the body's natural defense system (immune system) to fight foreign substances, such as bacteria. Antibodies attach themselves to the foreign substance, allowing other immune system cells to attack and destroy the substance.
The surfaces of viruses, fungi, and bacteria contain markers called antigens. To destroy the viruses, fungi, or bacteria, the immune system creates antibodies that are specific for each antigen.
Blood tests can detect antibodies to certain bacteria, fungi, and viruses, such as the viruses that cause chickenpox, HIV infection, hepatitis, and mononucleosis. Some conditions can be diagnosed by detecting antibodies in a person's blood to the virus, fungus, or bacteria that is causing the condition.
Sometimes the body responds to its own tissue as though the tissue was a foreign substance, creating antibodies against the tissue and triggering reactions that cause normal cells to be destroyed. This is called an autoimmune response or autoimmune disease.
Last Revised: December 30, 2011
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & W. David Colby IV, MSc, MD, FRCPC - Infectious Disease
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