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Ann Clin Biochem. 2002 Jul;39(Pt 4):366-73.

Interference in immunoassay is an underestimated problem.

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Department of Clinical Chemistry, Pinderfields General Hospital, Wakefield WF1 4DG, UK.


The presence of antibodies in some patients' serum has long been known to be a potential source of interference in immunoassays, as shown by numerous case reports. These often appear after the introduction of a new analyte (e.g. troponin) and then decrease in number as the topic becomes exhausted. This highlights the persistent and intrinsic nature of this problem, despite attempts by the manufacturers to compensate for this source of error. However, an explanation of the immunoanalytical basis underpinning these assays could be more effective in raising awareness than intermittent case reports. In this review we have outlined the use of antibodies as reagents, the factors determining how they bind to antigen(s), and the nature of the immune response in order to explain the insidious and unpredictable nature of this form of interference. Studies on the prevalence of interference have yielded values ranging from 0.05 to more than 2%. However, these figures are analyte- and assay-specific, influenced by the study design, and are not therefore generally applicable. It is also highly likely that figures on prevalence and incidence will worsen in the future because of the wider use of monoclonal antibodies as diagnostic and therapeutic tools. Clinical laboratories should be alert to assay interference from antibodies irrespective of its nature, as immunoassays will remain an indispensable analytical tool, unlikely to be replaced in the foreseeable future by a practical alternative.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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