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Nitroblue tetrazolium blood test

NBT test

The nitroblue tetrazolium test checks if certain immune system cells can change a colorless chemical called nitroblue tetrazolium (NBT) into a deep blue color.

How the Test is Performed

A blood sample is needed.

The chemical NBT is added to the white blood cells in the lab. The cells are then examined under a microscope to see if the chemical has made them turn blue.

How to Prepare for the Test

No special preparation is needed.

How the Test will Feel

When the needle is inserted to draw blood, some people feel moderate pain. Others feel a prick or stinging. Afterward, there may be some throbbing or a slight bruise. This soon goes away.

Why the Test is Performed

This test is done to screen for chronic granulomatous disease. This disorder is passed down in families. In people who have this disease, certain immune cells do not help protect the body from infections.

The health care provider may order this test for people who have frequent infections in the bones, skin, joints, lungs, and other parts of the body.

Normal Results

Normally, the white blood cells turn blue when NBT is added. This means that the cells should be able to kill bacteria and protect the person from infections.

Normal value ranges may vary slightly from one lab to another. Talk to your doctor about the meaning of your test results.

What Abnormal Results Mean

If the sample does not change color when NBT is added, the white blood cells are missing the substance needed to kill bacteria. This may be due to chronic granulomatous disease.

Risks

There is little risk involved with having your blood taken. Veins and arteries vary in size from one person to another and from one side of the body to the other. Taking blood from some people may be more difficult than from others.

Other risks associated with having blood drawn are slight, but may include:

  • Excessive bleeding
  • Fainting or feeling lightheaded
  • Multiple punctures to locate veins
  • Hematoma (blood accumulating under the skin)
  • Infection (a slight risk any time the skin is broken)

References

Glogauer M. Disorders of phagocyte function. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 169.

Riley RS. Laboratory evaluation of the cellular immune system. In: McPherson RA, Pincus MR, eds. Henry's Clinical Diagnosis and Management by Laboratory Methods. 23rd ed. St Louis, MO: Elsevier; 2017:chap 45.

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  • Nitroblue tetrazolium test - illustration

    Nitroblue tetrazolium test is a blood test that measures the ability of the immune system to convert the colorless nitroblue tetrazolium (NBT) to a deep blue. This test is performed as a screen for chronic granulomatous disease (CGD). If an individual has CGD, the white cells in their blood will not turn blue when exposed to the NBT.

    Nitroblue tetrazolium test

    illustration

  • Nitroblue tetrazolium test - illustration

    Nitroblue tetrazolium test is a blood test that measures the ability of the immune system to convert the colorless nitroblue tetrazolium (NBT) to a deep blue. This test is performed as a screen for chronic granulomatous disease (CGD). If an individual has CGD, the white cells in their blood will not turn blue when exposed to the NBT.

    Nitroblue tetrazolium test

    illustration

Tests for Nitroblue tetrazolium blood test

 
 

Review Date: 1/19/2019

Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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