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Cross-reactivity is the reaction between an antigen and an antibody of which was generated against a different but similar antigen. Few examples of cross-reactivity have been confirmed in humans, one of which is the cross-reactivity between influenza virus-specific CD8+ T cell and hepatitis C virus antigens.[1]

By definition an immune system is specific to a single antigen which creates it, however, many naturally occurring 'antigens' are a mixture of macromolecules (eg bacteria, toxins, proteins, pollen, fungi, viruses, etc) which contain several epitopes. Contact with a complex antigen such as a virus will stimulate multiple immune responses to the different individual macromolecules that make up the virus as well as the individual epitopes of each macromolecule. For example, the tetanus toxin is a single protein macromolecular antigen but will stimulate many immune responses due to the tertiary structure of the protein acting as various epitopes for various immune responses.

Medicinal uses for this idea include immunization to bacterial infections. The toxin that creates the immune response will have an epitope on it that stimulates the response. Denaturing of the protein may 'disarm' its function but allow the immune system to have an immune response thus creating an immunity without harming the patient.

Cross-reactivity is also a commonly evaluated parameter for the validation of immune and protein binding based assays such as ELISA and RIA. In this case it is normally quantified by comparing the assays response to a range of similar analytes and expressed as a percentage. In practice, calibration curves are produced using fixed concentration ranges for a selection of related compounds and the mid-points (IC50) of the calibration curves are calculated and compared. The figure then provides an estimate of the response of the assay to possible interfering compounds relative to the target analyte.

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References

  1. ^ Kasprowicz V, Ward SM, Turner A, et al. Defining the directionality and quality of influenza virus-specific CD8+ T cell cross-reactivity in individuals infected with hepatitis C virus. J Clin Invest. 2008; 118(3):1143-53.PMID:18246203
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