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Date of last update: 8/21/2017.

Forum Name: Rheumatology Topics

Question: Can high ANA be present in healthy individuals?

 ldakini - Sat Dec 06, 2008 4:44 pm

This is more of an academic question(s). ANA are antibodies against one's own cells--specifically the nuclear part of the cells. If one's immune system is manufacturing these antibodies, one's body is literally attacking itself. It is reasonable to assume that small amounts of ANAs may occur in infections where cells have been infiltrated by viruses or bacteria; or perhaps in cancers where cells have been mutated.

There is literature mentioning that a small percentage of 'healthy people' test positive for ANAs, however I cannot seem to locate the original literature that actually demonstrates this, nor have I been able to find literature that says consistently 'high titre ANA's' are found in healthy individuals. Also, I have not been able to determine what exactly 'healthy' means. Is there an implication that healthy means 'does not have the particular illness we are investigating' or does it mean fit to run a marathon.

If one's body is attacking itself, by definition one cannot be 'healthy'. Therefore if one is consistently producing large amounts of ANA's, one must have a disorder/disease.

1. Where is the literature?
2. Where is my logic faulty?
 Faye Lang, RN, MSW - Mon Dec 08, 2008 6:34 pm

Hello, Idakini-

I'm not sure that your question has a specific, black and white answer. Your analysis of ANA is accurate. However there are further considerations. ANA may be elevated in persons taking the drugs hydrazaline, procainamide, or isoniazid, as well as in identified autoimmune conditions. The research you request is not isolated in one place, to my knowledge. Rheumatology texts and forums are most likely to contain the answers you seek. However, your statement regarding "high titre ANAs" in healthy individuals is not accurate. Some healthy people have elevated ANAs, but not consistently high titres. To futher confuse the issue, some people with autoimmune diseases do not have elevated ANAs, or convert after diagnosis, and ANA tests can have false positives and false negatives. Generally speaking, persons with consistently high titre ANAs most likely have some degree of an autoimmune condition. The degree of a person's health status is determined by all systems being within normal range. Just as there is no real "average" person, there is no definitive state of "health".

I hope this helps.

Faye, RN, MSW
 ldakini - Wed Dec 10, 2008 8:40 am

Your reply was very helpful. Thank you so much. Last question?

ANA are antibodies produced against nuclear components, therefore the antibodies must test positive for one nuclear component (as in the case of antimitochondrial antibodies), several nuclear components, or all nuclear components.

It seems that identifying which nuclear component(s) are being 'attacked' is merely a matter of testing against each one. And if a set of tests don't test positive, the particular nuclear component has yet to be identified. Would this be true?
 ldakini - Wed Dec 10, 2008 9:12 am

It seems my biology was rusty...mitochondria being cellular components but not nuclear components.

Which begs the question, what are the possible nuclear antibodies?

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