Carbohydrate-binding antibodies play diverse and critical roles in human health. Endogenous carbohydrate-binding antibodies that recognize bacterial, fungal, and other microbial carbohydrates prevent systemic infections and help maintain microbiome homeostasis. Anti-glycan antibodies can have both beneficial and detrimental effects. For example, alloantibodies to ABO blood group carbohydrates can help reduce the spread of some infectious diseases, but they also impose limitations for blood transfusions. Antibodies that recognize self-glycans can contribute to autoimmune diseases, such as Guillain-Barre syndrome. In addition to endogenous antibodies that arise through natural processes, a variety of vaccines induce anti-glycan antibodies as a primary mechanism of protection. Some examples of approved carbohydrate-based vaccines that have had a major impact on human health are against pneumococcus, Haemophilus influeanza type b, and Neisseria meningitidis. Monoclonal antibodies specifically targeting pathogen associated or tumor associated carbohydrate antigens (TACAs) are used clinically for both diagnostic and therapeutic purposes. This review aims to highlight some of the well-studied and critically important applications of anti-carbohydrate antibodies.

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