Antimitochondrial antibodies are antibodies released by the immune system to attack the body. The mitochondria are the powerhouse of the cell, they are the ones responsible for creating energy to be used by cells inside the body. It makes the mitochondria a critical part of normal cell functions. 

Like any other parts and organs of the body, an autoimmune response affects the mitochondria. It results from the immune system breaking down and attacking the body’s cells, tissues, and organs. 

These antibodies are known to be associated with primary biliary cholangitis, which is formerly known as primary biliary cirrhosis. It is a chronic autoimmune disease characterized by the inflammation and scarring of the bile ducts inside the liver. There is yet no known cure for this condition, but treatment plans may help ease the symptoms and slow down the disease’s progression.

An antimitochondrial antibody test is conducted to identify the levels of antimitochondrial antibodies in the blood and diagnose primary biliary cholangitis.


Aside from the antimitochondrial antibody test, other tests may be done on the patient to confirm the diagnosis. In conjunction with the following tests, the antimitochondrial antibody test will help reveal if other autoimmune diseases cause liver damage. It may also be used in predicting if the patient needs to undergo a liver transplant. Here are the other types of tests that may be conducted:

  • Anti-smooth muscle antibodies test
  • Antinuclear antibodies test
  • Transaminases test
  • Alkaline phosphatase test
  • IgM level test
  • Bilirubin test
  • Albumin test
  • Prothrombin test
  • C-reactive protein test
  • GGT test



A patient should undergo an antimitochondrial antibody test if the following symptoms appear. It may be because of primary biliary cholangitis. However, depending on the diagnosis, it can also be because of other autoimmune diseases that attack the liver. Here are the symptoms of primary biliary cholangitis.

  • Jaundice or yellowing of the skin
  • Itchy skin
  • Fatigue
  • Dry mouth 
  • Dry eyes
  • Weight loss
  • Swelling of the hands and feet
  • Abdominal pain, especially in the upper right abdomen
  • A build-up of fluid in the abdomen
  • Enlarged liver

Once a patient suspects that they have liver problems and are experiencing some of these symptoms, it is best to consult with a doctor immediately. There is an increased risk that it will develop into liver cancer, or if the patient has already one then left unsupervised by a health expert.


The antimitochondrial antibody test is performed by obtaining a blood sample from the patient. It is not required for the patient to undergo fasting before the procedure. As mentioned, to accurately diagnose primary biliary cholangitis, several other tests must be conducted along with the antimitochondrial antibody test. It will help to eliminate other possible autoimmune diseases and assess liver damage.

There are two types of results for the antimitochondrial antibody test. A normal test result means that the patient is negative for the antibodies. The symptoms may be because of other diseases, but there is still a possibility that it is primary biliary cholangitis, so it is not necessarily ruled out. Studies reveal that 5 to 10% of those with primary biliary cholangitis have no significant amounts of antimitochondrial antibodies.

On the other hand, a positive test result means a detectable amount of antimitochondrial antibodies. The patient is more likely to have primary biliary cholangitis, but other tests will be conducted to diagnose the condition accurately.



If the patient tests positive for antimitochondrial antibodies, medications will be prescribed by the doctor to manage the condition. There is yet no known cure for primary biliary cholangitis. Treatment plans may help slow the progression of the disease and prevent further damage to the liver.

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