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Health Protocols

Immune Senescence

Assessing Immune Function

A variety of laboratory tests can be used to assess immune function (Serrano-Villar 2014; NIH 2012; LabCorp 2015; MayoClinic 2015a; Quest 2015; O'Sullivan 2013; MayoClinic 2015b; Coventry 2009; Shrivastava 2015; CDC 2016b; Licastro 2016). Some common tests are listed in Table 1. There are numerous other tests available that assess various aspects of immune system function, and a physician who suspects a specific immune-related problem may order tests not included in this list. The results from tests listed in Table 1 will provide general insights into immune system function in the context of immune senescence. In order to best evaluate general immune system health, these tests should be performed while the patient is well and not suffering from acute illness or recovering from trauma, as these conditions can impact the results.

Table 1: Laboratory Assessment of Immune Parameters
Test Description
White blood cell (WBC) count Abnormal levels may be sign of infection, blood cancer, or immune system disorder
Cytomegalovirus (CMV) IgM and IgG Aids in diagnosis of CMV infection or reactivation; positive CMV IgM indicates recent CMV infection or reactivation; positive CMV IgG indicates exposure to CMV, but a single test does not distinguish between past or recent infection
Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV) Antibodies Assesses persistent EBV infection, which may contribute to immune senescence
Human Herpesvirus 6 (HHV-6) IgG, IgM Assesses total antibodies for HHV-6
Natural Killer (NK) cell Function Assesses functional (ie, cell-killing) capacity of NK cells
Natural killer (NK) cell surface antigen (CD3-CD56+ Marker Analysis) Determines levels of NK cells in circulation
Complement C3 and C4 Low levels of C3 and C4 may be associated with autoimmune diseases such as systemic lupus erythematosus
C-reactive protein (hs-CRP) Highly sensitive marker of inflammation that indicates immune activation, possibly due to conditions such as cancer, infection, injury, or autoimmune disease; correlates with cardiovascular risk
Cortisol and dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEA-S) Cortisol is immunosuppressive, while DHEA stimulates immune function; an imbalance between these hormones may contribute to immune dysregulation
Cytokines, eg, TNF-α and interleukins IL-1beta, IL-6, IL-8 Proteins that are critical mediators of the inflammatory response
Antinuclear antibodies (ANA) Elevated in some autoimmune diseases
Immunoglobulins IgA, IgG, IgM Elevated in some autoimmune diseases, multiple myeloma, and acute and chronic infections; decreased in immune deficiencies
T-Lymphocyte helper/suppressor profile May be helpful in assessing immunodeficiency states