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CSF coccidioides complement fixation test

Coccidioides antibody test - spinal fluid

CSF coccidioides complement fixation is a test that checks for infection due to the fungus Coccidioides in the cerebrospinal (CSF) fluid. This is the fluid surrounding the brain and spine. The name of this infection is coccidioidomycosis, or valley fever.

This test can also be done as a blood test.

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Blood test

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How the Test is Performed

A sample of spinal fluid is needed for this test. The sample is usually obtained by lumbar puncture (spinal tap).

The sample is sent to a laboratory. There, it is examined for Coccidioides antibodies using a laboratory method called complement fixation. This technique checks if your body has produced substances called antibodies to a specific foreign substance (antigen), in this case Coccidioides.

Antibodies defend your body against bacteria, viruses, and fungi. If the antibodies are present, they stick, or "fix" themselves, to the antigen. This is why the test is called "fixation."

How to Prepare for the Test

Follow your health care provider’s instructions on how to prepare for the test. Expect to be in the hospital for several hours afterward.

During the test:

Why the Test is Performed

This test checks if your central nervous system has an active infection from Coccidioides.

Normal Results

The absence of fungus (a negative test) is normal.

What Abnormal Results Mean

If the test is positive for fungus, there may be an active infection in the central nervous system.

An abnormal spinal fluid test means that the central nervous system is infected. But an abnormal blood test does not pinpoint the exact area of infection. It only means that there is a coccidioides infection somewhere in the body.

During the early stage of an illness, few antibodies may be detected. Antibody production increases during the course of an infection. For this reason, this test may be repeated several weeks after the first test.

Risks

Risks of lumbar puncture include:

Related Information

Complement

References

Galgiani JN. Coccidioidomycosis (Coccidioides species). In: Bennett JE, Dolin R, Blaser MJ, eds. Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 267.

Iwen PC. Mycotic diseases. In: McPherson RA, Pincus MR, eds. Henry's Clinical Diagnosis and Management by Laboratory Methods. 22nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 61.

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Review Date: 5/1/2015  

Reviewed By: Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Assistant in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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