Agglutination

Abram B Stavitsky, Department of Molecular Biology and Microbiology, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, Cleveland, Ohio, USA

A variety of particles bearing either natural or conjugated epitopes on their surfaces are specifically agglutinated by polyclonal or monoclonal antibodies to these epitopes. These particles can be inert but bearing these epitopes on their surfaces. They can also be large viruses, eukaryotic cells, or a variety of other cells, including bacteria, yeasts, fungi, protozoa and parasites. Inasmuch as very low concentrations of these antibodies can specifically agglutinate these cells, this reaction has served as a very sensitive and specific assay for the presence of specific antibodies in the serum or body fluids, e.g. antibodies to the bacillus of typhoid fever. The reaction can also be employed for the detection and measurement of antigen in the serum or body fluids. Agglutination is rarely used in research and for diagnosis because it has not been possible to easily and precisely quantit-ate this reaction. Therefore, it has been replaced by more quantifiable assays for antibodies, including the ELISA (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay), various radioimmunoassays and other types of immunoassays. More recently, however, methods which facilitate, speed up and make more precise the reading of agglutination reactions may eventually result in the more frequent use of this very sensitive reaction for both research and diagnosis.

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