Clinical immunology

The clinical immunology service provides tests for autoimmunity, rheumatology and allergies. Tests for serology such as HIV and hepatitis testing are also part of immunology.

What is clinical immunology?

Clinical immunology is a discipline of biomedical science involving the study of diseases caused by disorders of the immune system. The diseases caused by disorders of the immune system fall into two broad groups:

  • immunodeficiency (where the immune system fails to produce an adequate response)
  • autoimmunity (immune system attacks its host’s body).

Other immune system disorders include allergies, in which the immune system responds inappropriately to harmless compounds.

What happens to your sample?

All samples are checked on receipt that they are labelled with the patient details and are accompanied by a request form with patient details, the tests requested and some information about why the tests are required. Each sample is barcoded and information recorded on the laboratory computer system.

Samples are centrifuged (spun at high speed to separate the red cells from the serum) and the tests analysed on the serum. Biomedical scientists put the samples onto analysers and run quality control to make sure the results are right. Some more complicated tests need a part of the sample to be sent to another laboratory for testing. All results are compared to a reference range and sent to the GP surgery through electronic links.

The immunology department also performs testing for screening of pregnant ladies such as checking they are immune to rubella (if caught in pregnancy it can harm the unborn child).

Although relatively small compared to other disciplines clinical immunology is growing rapidly as public awareness of clinical immunodeficiency, autoimmunity and allergy related diseases or disorders increases. Laboratory testing plays an essential role in aiding the diagnosis of immune disease; the majority of diagnoses are heavily supported by results from the immunology laboratory. Immunology clinics are held at the University Hospital of North Tees to diagnose patients with allergies.

Common immunology tests include:

  • connective tissue disease screen (anti-nuclear antibodies)
  • autoimmune hepatitis screen (liver autoantibodies)
  • coeliac disease screen (tTG)
  • rheumatoid arthritis screen
  • immunologlobulins
  • specific IgEs (allergies)