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The division of biological science concerned with antigen-antibody reactions in serum. It properly encompasses any of these reactions, but is often used in a limited sense to denote laboratory diagnostic tests, especially for syphilis. The techniques of blood grouping have come from the study of antigen-antibody reactions in serum, as have techniques for identification of genetic polymorphism and quantitation of numerous serum proteins. With these advances came the means for developing transfusion therapy with cells and plasma. In addition, these techniques led to identification of antibodies involved in incompatibility reactions, such as in erythroblastosis fetalis, and the development of effective measures to prevent their occurrence. Further, extension of these techniques to identification of antigens on white cells led to effective methods of histocompatibility typing, facilitating organ transplantation. See Transplantation biology



the study of the properties of blood serum; the term “serology” is usually applied to the branch of immunology that studies serum antibody-antigen interactions.

Serologic reactions may be direct (two-component), for example, agglutination, passive hemagglutination, and precipitation, or they may be indirect (three-component), for example, microbial neutralization and hemagglutination retardation. Several simple reactions may constitute complex serologic reactions, including bacteriolysis and complement fixation. Immunofluorescence, which is based on the staining of antibodies (antigens) with fluorochromes, is also widely used. A special type of serologic reaction is the immobilization of motile microorganisms, for example, the immobilization of Treponema pallidum during syphilis. Certain serologic studies are not carried out in vitro but are administered directly to experimental animals; for example, the animals are given immune serum in serial dilutions and a lethal dose of microbes.

Serologic reactions are used for scientific and diagnostic purposes in infectious and noninfectious immunology, for example, in the transfusion of blood, in the determination of blood groups, and in the establishment of generic and individual protein specificity. Serologic investigations are also employed in epidemiology and epizootiology in identifying the source of an infection, the method of the transmission of an infection, the state of immunity in humans and animals, and the effectiveness of vaccination. The antigen-antibody reaction constitutes the basis of seroprophylaxis and serotherapy. Today, serology is concerned with highly specific diagnostic and therapeutic serums—with the development of methods for their production, with the evaluation of their activity, and with the clarification of their action.


Reznikova, L. S., R. V. Epshtein-Litvak, and M. I. Levi. Serologicheskie metodv issledovaniiapri diagnostike infeklsionnykh boleznei. Moscow, 1962.
Handbook of Experimental Immunology. Oxford, 1967.



The branch of science dealing with the properties and reactions of blood sera.
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