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What Is a Neutralizing Antibody?

By Jennifer Long
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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A neutralizing antibody (NAb) is a type of antibody that is produced naturally as part of immune system responses. These antibodies inhibit the effects of or destroy foreign agents that invade the body. Neutralizing antibodies can be triggered by infection or vaccination.

An antibody is a protein that is found in the blood or the lymph nodes. Foreign agents enter the body and take over cells to replicate. The immune system is triggered, and a neutralizing antibody is activated. Neutralizing antibodies then block the agents either by destroying them before they invade the cells or by blocking receptors of the virus.

A binding antibody and a neutralizing antibody should not be confused with each other. Binding antibodies bind to a foreign agent, flagging it. White blood cells are signaled to destroy the flagged antigen. Neutralizing antibodies, on the other hand, stop the function of the agents.

Medical research has shown that a neutralizing antibody has potential in retroviral infections and specific conditions that do not have immunizations for protection. Encoding the genes to produce antibodies that neutralize specific agents that attack the immune system can possibly treat the infections that they cause. This research can be beneficial for treating such conditions as human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and multiple sclerosis (MS). Both of these conditions have shown that they potentially could be modified to alter the effects that the viruses have on the body.

Immunizations against viruses such as influenza and diphtheria train the body to automatically produce a neutralizing antibody cluster upon exposure. This automatic reaction has a specific purpose. The invading virus is neutralized before it has a chance to cause infection, which is how the body develops immunity to certain viruses after being treated with immunizations or after exposure to the virus.

Although a neutralizing antibody can be beneficial, it also possesses the ability to be harmful. In some cases, the antibodies attack medicines. The antibodies can see certain medicines as foreign agents. Similar to how neutralizing antibodies can neutralize bad agents, they can negate the effects that the medicines are designed to have on the body. Many protein-based medicines used in immunotherapy, such as interferon, are targeted by neutralizing antibodies.

The immune system is complex. Body and cell defense through this natural process is important, but there is a lot that doctors still do not know. Research helps the medical community learn more about the role that neutralizing antibodies play in the overall function of the immune system.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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