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What Is Titer and How to Determine It?

Titer is the amount or concentration of a substance in solution. The term is often used to
describe concentrations of biological molecules (bioproducts), such as antibodies and other
proteins. The titer is an indication of the number of times the solution can be diluted and still
contain detectable amounts of the molecule of interest. In fact, when calculating titer, the
numerical value assigned to a titer is directly indicative of the dilution factor.

Serial Dilution
To calculate antibody titer, a blood serum sample containing antibody is diluted serially (1:2,
1:4, 1:8, 1:16... and so on). Using an appropriate detection method (colorimetric,
chromatographic, etc.), each dilution is tested for the presence of detectable levels of
antibody. The assigned titer value is indicative of the last dilution in which the antibody was
detected.

Examples of Calculations
Say, for instance, that the antibody was detected in each of the tubes listed above, but not in a
1:32 dilution. If that's the case, then the titer is said to be 16.
However, if it is detected in the 1:2 and 1:4 dilutions, but no others, the titer is said to be 4.
Therefore, the titer is the degree to which the antibody-serum solution can be diluted and still
contain detectable amounts of antibody.

Why Titer Is Calculated


Doctors will test patients' antibody levels to determine whether they have been exposed to an
antigen or substance the body deems foreign.
When this occurs, antibody levels rise because the body enlists the antibodies to attack and
get rid of the foreign substance.
Often, physicians decide to test patients' antibodies to see if they've been exposed to foreign
substances in the past. This includes common childhood infections. According to the U.S.
National Library of Medicine, antibody titer is also used to see if the body has had an
immune response to the body's own tissues, which happens to people with lupus.
A patient's level of antibody titers may also be tested to see if the individual needs a booster
shot or to see if a vaccine given in the past helped protect the patient from a certain disease.
In addition to these reasons, doctors test the antibody levels of patients to see if they've had
an infection recently or in the distant past.

What Are Normal Levels of Antibody Titers?


It's difficult to say what normal levels of antibody titers are without knowing why they are
being tested. What's considered normal depends on which medical condition is in question.

However, if the level is negative, that can be used to exclude diagnoses of certain medical
conditions. If the antibody titers are being tested to see if the body is attacking its own
tissues, the normal level is zero.
In any case, discuss your specific results with your medical practitioner, and remember that
different laboratories may have different normal ranges.