NAB-ing interferons

The body's response to invaders, such as pollen, bacteria, and viruses, is to trigger its natural defense system. The immune system makes antibodies that stick to the foreign substances and inactivate them. Through this process, known as an immune reaction, antibodies are able to protect the body from potentially harmful foreign substances.

Sometimes, certain interferon medications can cause an immune reaction (i.e., trigger the body to produce antibodies). Keep in mind that not all antibodies are the same, even when formed in response to the same medication. The majority of antibodies formed against interferon medications will not affect how the therapy works. These antibodies, known as binding antibodies, cause no outward effects and are a normal function of the immune system.

Some antibodies, however, can interfere with, or neutralize, the effectiveness of the treatment. In this case, the antibodies produced in response to medications are called neutralizing antibodies (NABs). Experts think that some people on interferon medications ultimately do develop NABs over a long period of time. Doctors don't yet know why some people produce NABs and others don't.

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