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What do you call an 'unidentified' antibody?

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This may be just semantics, but I am wondering what you call an antibody that does not have an identified specificity. This could apply to plasma that has demonstrated reactivity in the antibody screen but not the antibody panel or for plasma whose reactivity does not fit a pattern (and all clinically significant antibodies are ruled out).

One of our techs calls these 'HLA antibodies' or 'HTLA antibodies' but I tend to call them nonspecifics. I have heartburn over calling these something that I am not sure they are.

Anyone else have thoughts on this terminology? Does it really matter?


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We have a mnemonic that displays in the medical record: "antibody of undetermined specificity".


My medical director was averse to the idea of using 'non-specific' because there may be a specificity that we simply aren't able to identify. We also chose against 'Inconclusive'. I'm curious of how other people approach this subject. Semantics definitely matters in this context.

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Our reference lab uses "Antibody of undetermined specificity. All common clinically significant antibodies ruled out." We've adopted this phrase for use here. If the antibody is reactive with solid phase but not with PeG, I will add that it is a solid phase reactive antibody of undetermined specificity, etc. etc. If I get one or two reactive cells total on the antibody screen and ID panels I may add the comment that the antibody may be directed against a low incidence antigen.


For OB patients I also add the comment that the clinical significance of the antibody is unknown. We do send some of the OB cases to reference for workups (though usually not the solid phase only examples) - occasionally they will ID a specific antibody directed against a low incidence antigen which allows a more informed report as to clinical significance.

Edited by AMcCord
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  • 3 months later...

Since all antibodies have a specificity, we don't use the old term 'non-specific'.  If we don't know 'its name', we report one of the following as applies to the workup:

  • Cold Antibody: Undetermined Specificity
  • Cold Auto-Antibody: Undetermined Specificity
  • Warm Auto-Antibody: Undetermined Specificity
  • Antibody Detected: Too Weak to Identify at this Time
  • Possible HLA/HTLA Antibodies
  • Antibody Detected: No Identification at this Time
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I'm a fan of Serum Hemagglutinin of Indeterminate Type...




But I really like this one, too.

On October 1, 2015 at 8:07 AM, AMcCord said:

Our reference lab uses "Antibody of undetermined specificity. All common clinically significant antibodies ruled out."


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  • 2 weeks later...

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