Heterophilic antibodies remain a problem for the immunoassay laboratory

Greg Ward*, Letitia McKinnon, Tony Badrick, Peter E. Hickman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

109 Citations (Scopus)


The prevalence of heterophilic antibody interference in a modern immunochemiluminometric assay containing blocking agents was determined using thyrotropin as an illustrative example. Serum samples were obtained from 295 consecutive patients who underwent routine thyroid function testing. The following versions of the thyrotropin assay were used: protocol A (zero blocker), protocol B (routine blocker concentration), and protocol C (extra blocker). Ten patients (prevalence 3.4%) had significant levels of heterophilic antibodies (protocol A value greater than 9 SD from the protocol B value). The observed thyrotropin levels for protocols B and C were the same for all patients, consistent with the reagent blockers in routine assays adequately eliminating heterophilic antibody interference. However, seven more patients (0.03%) in a series of 21,000 assessed by routine thyroid function testing had discordant results because of a concentration of heterophilic antibodies so high as to overwhelm the added blocking agents.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)417-421
Number of pages5
JournalAmerican Journal of Clinical Pathology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1997
Externally publishedYes


  • Heterophilic antibody
  • Incidence
  • Interference
  • Thyroid function
  • Thyrotropin


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