Medical Definition of Antibody

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Reviewed on 12/11/2018

Antibody: An immunoglobulin, a specialized immune protein, produced because of the introduction of an antigen into the body, and which possesses the remarkable ability to combine with the very antigen that triggered its production.

The production of antibodies is a major function of the immune system and is carried out by a type of white blood cell called a B cell (B lymphocyte). Antibodies can be triggered by and directed at foreign proteins, microorganisms, or toxins. Some antibodies are autoantibodies and home in against our own tissues.

The term "antibody" dates to 1901. Prior to that time, an "antibody" referred to any of a host of different substances that served as "bodies" (foot soldiers) in the fight against infection and its ill effects.

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Reviewed on 12/11/2018