Thyroid hormone autoantibodies and their implications for free thyroid hormone measurement
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Thyroid hormone autoantibodies (THAA) disrupt the equilibrium between thyroid hormones and their binding proteins. This may lead to spurious estimations of free thyroxine (FT4) and triiodothyronine (FT3) by radioimmunoassay (RIA). In the present study we highlight the importance of THAA by examining the frequency of THAA in consecutive sera sent to a routine district hospital laboratory. Over a period of six months, sera were collected from 200 consecutive hypothyroid, 200 hyperthyroid and seven patients whose clinical and biochemical thyroid status were contradictory. A further 200 patients with non-thyroid autoimmune conditions, 20 patients with insulin autoantibodies and 100 healthy blood transfusion donors were studied. In all sera, both effects of antigen removal on THAA detection and where THAA were found, the effect of their removal on FT4, were examined. The frequencies of THAA amongst hypothyroid, hyperthyroid and non-thyroid autoimmune conditions were 7%, 1.5% and 7.5% respectively, whilst no THAA were found in insulin autoantibody positive patients and 100 blood transfusion donors. However, THAA frequency was highest in those patients whose biochemical thyroid status was widely inappropriate to clinical state (5/7 = 64%). Sera stripped of thyroid hormones prior to THAA detection had significantly higher antibody activity than unstripped sera (p = 0.0027 and p = 0.0123 for T3 and T4 binding respectively). Free thyroxine levels measured by the Amerlex-M RIA kit after antibody removal fell in all 21 THAA positive sera tested. The correlation coefficient between antibody activity in serum with percentage fall in FT4 was 0.79 (Spearman’s Rank Correlation Test). This study defines the frequency of THAA in blood samples submitted to a routine district hospital laboratory, and underlines the importance of removing THAA to the correct interpretation of thyroid hormone estimations.
Key-wordsThyroid hormone autoantibodies free thyroxine radioimmunoassay artefact
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