RSV antibody test is a blood test that measures the levels of antibodies (immunoglobulins) that the body makes after an infection with the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).
A blood sample is needed. The procedure is done in the following way:
In infants or young children, a sharp tool called a lancet may be used to puncture the skin and make it bleed. The blood collects into a small glass tube called a pipette, or onto a slide or test strip. Afterward, a bandage may be placed over the area if there is any bleeding.
There is no special preparation needed.
When the needle is inserted to draw blood, you may feel moderate pain only a prick or stinging. Afterward, there may be some throbbing.
This test is done to identify someone who has been infected by RSV recently or in the past.
This test does not detect the virus itself. If the body has produced antibodies against RSV, then either a current or past infection has occurred.
In infants, RSV antibodies that have been passed from mother to baby may also be detected.
A negative test means the person does not have antibodies to RSV in the blood. This means the person has never had an RSV infection.
A positive test means the person has antibodies to RSV in the blood. These antibodies may be present because:
There is very little risk involved with having your blood taken. Veins and arteries vary in size from one patient to another and from one side of the body to the other. Taking blood from some people may be more difficult than from others.
Other risks associated with having blood drawn are slight but may include:
This test is not very useful because it does not detect RSV directly. It is not recommended in infants because the mother's antibodies may be detected. It is not useful in adults because most people have antibodies due to a past infection.
Respiratory syncytial virus antibody test; RSV serology
Breese HC. Respiratory syncytial virus. In: Mandell GL, Bennett JE, Dolin R, eds. Mandel, Douglas, and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Disease. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2009:chap 158.
Walsh EE. Respiratory syncytial virus. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 370.
Updated by: Denis Hadjiliadis, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Division of Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, David R. Eltz, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.
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