Immunobead Test

Antibodies are often thought of only as mechanisms that help the body prevent infection. When the body recognizes a ‘foreign’ substance, it tries to build up immunity or antibodies against that substance. But in the case of anti-sperm antibodies, the body recognizes the sperm as foreign and antibodies build up against the sperm, working against the body and interfering with the reproductive process. In women, antibodies (when present) can inhibit sperm movement as they make their way through the woman’s cervical mucous in an effort to reach an egg. In men, antibodies on the sperm’s tail may also impair the sperm’s movement through the woman’s mucous.

The reasons why these antibodies develop may be due to infections or other factors. To check for the presence of anti-sperm antibodies, healthcare providers might run an immunobead test (IBT).

Why It Is Done

An IBT can detect the percent of sperm that are bound to anti-sperm antibodies, including different kinds of anti-sperm antibodies in several biological samples: blood, cervical mucous and on sperm cells. The different classes of antibodies can potentially impact fertility in different ways. The test can indicate if antibodies are present and what part of the sperm is specifically affected. In a blood sample, an IBT test can reveal whether the antibodies originate from the blood circulation or around the reproductive organs.

How It Is Done

To detect antibodies, blood is drawn from the woman, incubated with a sperm sample and examined under a microscope in the laboratory. Sperm from a semen specimen can also be directly tested for antibodies.

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