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Ann Med Interne (Paris). 2003 Dec;154(8):529-40.

[Investigation of the complement system in clinical practice].

[Article in French]

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Service d'Immunologie Biologique, Hôpital Européen Georges-Pompidou, Assistance Publique-Hôpitaux de Paris, 20-40, rue Leblanc, 75908 Paris Cedex 15.


The complement system plays an important role in defence of the host against infection and in the clearance of immune complexes. Defects in complement proteins are often associated with infections or auto/immune complex diseases. Investigation of complement is useful for diagnosis and following of auto-immune diseases. The aim of this Article is to provide an overview of important applications of complement in medicine, emphasizing the role of complement in pathogenesis and the usefulness of measurements of complement proteins in diagnosis and assessment of the evolution of disease states. Emphasis has been placed on practical applications and understanding basic mechanisms of disease. The best screen for complement deficiencies or significant activation is the CH50, which measures total classical pathway activity and the measurement of C3 and C4. The absence or decrease of multiple components is usually due to consumption of complement. Complete lack of CH50 associated with normal C3 antigen is a strong indication for complement deficiency and should be followed up with further tests to determine which component is missing.

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