Serology is the scientific study of plasma serum and other bodily fluids. In practice, the term usually refers to the diagnostic identification of antibodies in the serum. Such antibodies are typically formed in response to an infection (against a given microorganism), against other foreign proteins (in response, for example, to a mismatched blood transfusion), or to one's own proteins (in instances of autoimmune disease).
Serological tests may be performed for diagnostic purposes when an infection is suspected, in rheumatic illnesses, and in many other situations, such as checking an individual's blood type. Serology blood tests help to diagnose patients with certain immune deficiencies associated with the lack of antibodies, such as X-linked agammaglobulinemia. In such cases, tests for antibodies will be consistently negative.
There are several serology techniques that can be used depending on the antibodies being studied. These include: ELISA, agglutination, precipitation, complement-fixation, and fluorescent antibodies.
Some serological tests are not limited to blood serum, but can also be performed on other bodily fluids such as semen and saliva, which have (roughly) similar properties to serum.
Serological tests may also be used forensically, specifically for a piece of evidence (e.g., linking a rapist to a semen sample).
Serological surveys are often used by epidemiologists to determine the prevalence of a disease in a population. Such surveys are sometimes performed by random, anonymous sampling from samples taken for other sexual tests.