What is ELISA?
ELISA is an abbreviation for "enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay."
What is an ELISA test?
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An ELISA test uses components of the immune system and chemicals to detect immune responses in the body (for example, to infectious microbes). The ELISA test involves an enzyme (a protein that catalyzes a biochemical reaction). It also involves an antibody or antigen (immunologic molecules).
What is the use of an ELISA test?
ELISA tests are widely utilized to detect substances that have antigenic properties, primarily proteins (as opposed to small molecules and ions such as glucose and potassium). The substances detected by ELISA tests include hormones, bacterial antigens and antibodies.
How does an ELISA test work?
There are variations of the ELISA test, but the most basic type consists of an antibody attached to a solid surface. This antibody has affinity for (will latch on to) the substance of interest, for example, human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG), the commonly measured protein which indicates pregnancy. A mixture of purified HCG linked to an enzyme and the test sample (blood or urine) are added to the test system. If no HCG is present in the test sample, then only HCG with linked enzyme will bind. The more HCG that is present in the test sample, the less enzyme linked HCG will bind. The substance on which the enzyme acts is then added and the amount of product is measured in some way, such as a change in color of the solution.
What are the advantages of ELISA?
ELISA tests are generally accurate tests. They are considered highly sensitive and specific and compare favorably with other methods used to detect substances in the body, such as radioimmune assay (RIA) tests. They have the added advantages of not needing radioisotopes (radioactive substances) or a costly radiation counter (a radiation-counting apparatus).
Medically reviewed by Michael Manning, M.D. American Board of Allergy & Immunology
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/26/2014
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