What is Seroconversion and the Incubation Period?

In this article you can get an idea about,

  • What is Seroconversion?
  • What is Seronegative?
  • What is Seropositive?
  • What is Serology?
  • What is an Antigen?
  • What is an Antibody?
  • What is Vaccination?
  • What is Incubation Period?

Seroconversion can simply be said as the conversion of your blood from “Disease Negative” state to “Disease Positive” state after an infectious agent has entered into your blood stream.

Serum is the medical term for blood (of course, NOT the whole blood) and “Serology is the science of studying about blood and blood products.

The term “Seroconversion” is mostly discussed regarding viral infections (eg: HIV) in which an infected person’s blood (serum) converts from “Seronegative” state to “Seropositive” state sometime after the infection is acquired.

In Immunology, those viruses (or any other agent that has the capacity to trigger an Immune Reaction in the body) are called “Antigens.

When an Antigen has entered into one’s blood stream, blood cells identify it as an external toxin and start to produce “some special proteins” to destroy that specific Antigen. These special proteins are called “Antibodies.

Those Antibodies are specific to their causative Antigen (virus) so if these antibodies are present in someone’s blood, that means the causative Antigen (the virus or any other agent) must have entered into that person’s blood at a previous time. (In other words – that person’s blood has exposed to that specific virus at least onetime in his or her life.)

Otherwise, there’s no way for these antibodies to appear in that person’s blood, except he or she has undergone a “Vaccination” or a “Blood Transfusion”.

In “Vaccination”, they simply inject the half-killed virus (which has the potential ONLY to start an Immune Reaction inside the body and produce antibodies, but has lost its strength to develop the disease) into a person’s body.

In blood transfusion, the donor’s (person giving blood) antibodies may enter into the recipient’s (person taking blood) blood. But these antibodies will disappear soon in a short period of time.

What is seronegative?

The state of blood, in which there are NO antibodies for an specific antigen (virus) in one’s blood is called “seronegative state for that specific antigen (virus).

Of course, all the healthy individuals are seronegative for all the viruses, because they have no antibodies in their blood against those viruses. (In other words – seronegative means, there are no antibodies in the blood of a person against a specific antigen)

What is seropositive?

After sometimes the virus has entered into one’s blood stream, his or her blood starts to produce antibodies against that virus and this state (in which, antibodies are present in the blood) is called “seropositive state”.

It takes some time to convert one’s blood from “seronegative state” to “seropositive state” from the time the causative virus has entered into his or her blood.

This period of time which takes for the blood to convert itself from “seronegative state” to “seropositive state” is called the “Incubation period of that virus.

The length of the “Incubation period” may vary from few days to few years depending on the virus concerned.

After the “Incubation period” is over, and the patient’s blood has converted from “seronegative” state to “seropositive” state, the infected person (patient) starts to display the symptoms related to that particular disease caused by the concerned virus, and then it is possible to diagnose that patient as having the disease by the relevant blood tests.


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