Rh isoimmunization in Sub-Saharan Africa indicates need for universal access to anti-RhD immunoglobulin and effective management of D-negative pregnancies
Erhabor Osaro1, Adias Teddy Charles2
1Department of Blood Sciences, Royal Bolton Hospital NHS Trust UK; 2Department of Medical Laboratory Sciences, Rivers State University of Science and Technology, Port Harcourt, Nigeria
Abstract: Transplacental or fetomaternal hemorrhage (FMH) may occur during pregnancy or at delivery and lead to immunization to the D antigen if the mother is Rh-negative and the baby is Rh-positive. This can result in hemolytic disease of the fetus and newborn (HDFN) in subsequent D-positive pregnancies. The aim of this study is to highlight the challenges associated with the effective management and prevention of Rh alloimmunization among Rh-negative women in Sub-Saharan Africa. In most Sub-Saharan African countries, there is poor and sometimes no alloimmunization prevention following potentially sensitizing events and during medical termination of pregnancy in Rh-negative women. Information about previous pregnancies and termination are often lacking in patients’ medical notes due to poor data management. These issues have made the management of Rh-negative pregnancy a huge challenge. Despite the fact that the prevalence of Rh-negative phenotype is significantly lower among Africans than Caucasians, Rh alloimmunization remains a major factor responsible for perinatal morbidity in Sub-Saharan Africa and may result in the compromise of the woman’s obstetric care due to the unaffordability of anti-D immunoglobulin. There is the urgent need for the implementation of universal access to anti-D immunoglobulin for the Rh-negative pregnant population in Africa. Anti-D immunoglobulin should be available in cases of potentially sensitizing events such as amniocentesis, cordocentesis, antepartum hemorrhage, vaginal bleeding during pregnancy, external cephalic version, abdominal trauma, intrauterine death and stillbirth, in utero therapeutic interventions, miscarriage, and therapeutic termination of pregnancy. There is also the need for the availability of FMH measurements following potentially sensitizing events. The low-cost acid elution method, a modification of the Kleihauer–Betke (KB) test, can become a readily available, affordable, and minimum alternative to flow cytometric measurement of FMH. Knowledge of anti-D prophylaxis among obstetricians, biomedical scientist, midwives, traditional birth attendants, pharmacists, and nurses in Africa needs to be improved. This will facilitate quality antenatal and postnatal care offered to Rh-negative pregnant population and improve perinatal outcomes.
Keywords: rhesus isoimmunization, Sub-Saharan Africa, universal access, anti-D, management, Rh-negative women
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