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Testing Time

A reader asks: “I have antinuclear antibody positive test results, with a titre reading in the two thousands. I’m confused about what this is an indicator of; can you advise me please?”

QUESTION:

I have antinuclear antibody positive test results, with a titre reading in the two thousands. I’m confused about what this is an indicator of; can you advise me please?

ANSWER:

The production of antibodies is the body’s normal response to infections caused by bacteria and viruses like the flu. This is part of the immune response.

These reactions are usually to “foreign” proteins not normally found in the body. The body uses these antibodies to overcome infections and respond to the foreign proteins in immunisations.

Sometimes the body makes antibodies to its own proteins in cells and nuclei (the central repository of cells). These antibodies we call auto-immune antibodies.

Antinuclear antibodies are developed as a reaction to certain proteins in the nuclei of cells. They are not generally specific to a particular disease but are a marker of risk.

You may have these antibodies in your blood for months or years and never have an active disorder. A “titre reading in the two thousands” would indicate a higher level of risk, but does not mean you have a particular disease.

The presence of other specific auto-antibodies would make certain diseases such as SLE (systemic lupus erythematosus), scleroderma and Sjorgens disease more likely.

If your doctor found a high level of antinuclear antibodies, they cannot tell if these antibodies have been present for years or are recent. They would normally do more specific tests for disease and if all were negative, repeat them some three to six months later, or seek the opinion of a specialist in these disorders.

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