Complement Fixation Test

Seppo Meri, Department of Bacteriology and Immunology, Haartman Institute, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland

Carl-Henrik von Bonsdorff, Department of Virology, Haartman Institute, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland

Copyright © 1998 Elsevier Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

The complement fixation (CF) test has traditionally been used for the determination of antimicrobial (viral, bacterial, parasitic and fungal) antibodies in patient sera. In a broader sense, CF refers to any technique that exploits the binding and activation of complement components as a reporter system for antigen-antibody reactions. Potential applications thus include: 1) direct measurement of complement activity using antibody-sensitized erythrocytes; 2) indirect complement consumption assay to detect antibody or antigen; and 3) determination of complement-activating ('fixing') autoantibodies (such as islet cell antibodies in diabetes). Although the CF test could be considered as a piece of history of immunology transferred to the modern world, it still has a significant role in diagnostics and research in human and veterinary medicine. Despite the fact that the method represents a multicomponent biological assay with many easily disturbed components, it works well in professional hands. The method is thoroughly known, reliable, inexpensive in material costs and especially well suited for screening purposes. On the negative side are the long time it takes to obtain results and the labor intensity of the assay.

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