any of several laboratory procedures carried out on a sample of blood serum, the clear liquid that separates from the blood when it is allowed to clot. The purpose of such a test is to detect serum antibodies or antibody-like substances that appear specifically in association with certain diseases. The various types of serological tests include:
(1) Flocculation tests: of which the complement-fixation tests are the most common. They are based on the precipitation, or flocculation, that takes place when antibody and specially prepared antigens are mixed together.
(2) Neutralization tests: which depend on the capacity of antibody to neutralize the infectious properties of the infectious organisms.
(3) Hemagglutinin-inhibition tests: which make use of the finding that certain viruses will cause the red blood cells of certain animal species to agglutinate (congeal, or clump together) and that this agglutination will be prevented by antibody.
Serological testing is particularly helpful in the diagnosis of rickettsial and viral diseases such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever, influenza, measles, poliomyelitis, and yellow fever, as well as of infectious mononucleosis and rheumatoid arthritis. As a practical mass-screening diagnostic tool, it has proved valuable in the detection of such conditions as syphilis. See also blood analysis.