RH genotype matching for transfusion support in sickle cell disease

Stella T. Chou, Perry Evans, Sunitha Vege, Sarita L. Coleman, David F. Friedman, Margaret Keller and Connie M. Westhoff

Key Points

  • RH genotyping of red cells may improve matching of patients and donors and reduce Rh alloimmunization.

  • RH genotype matching may improve use of an African American blood donor inventory.

Publisher's Note: There is a Blood Commentary on this article in this issue.


Rh alloimmunization remains a challenge for patients with sickle cell disease (SCD) despite transfusion of serologic Rh C, E, and K antigen-matched red cells. Inheritance of altered RH alleles contributes to the prevalence of Rh antibodies after blood transfusion in patients with SCD and explains approximately one-third of cases. The remainder seem to be stimulated by altered Rh proteins on African American donor red cells. Matching patients with donors on the basis of RH genotype may mitigate Rh alloimmunization, but the feasibility and resources required are not known. We compared RH allele frequencies between patients with SCD (n = 857) and African American donors (n = 587) and showed that RH allele frequencies are similar. Overall, 29% of RHD and 53% of RHCE alleles are altered in patients and African American donors. We modeled RH genotype matching compared with serologic Rh D, C, and E, along with K antigen matching, and found that approximately twice the number of African American donors would be required for RH genotype vs Rh serologic matching at our institution. We demonstrated that African American donor recruitment is necessary to maintain an adequate supply of C-, E-, and K-negative donor units to avoid depleting the Rh-negative (RhD) blood supply. Our results suggest that prophylactic RH genetic matching for patients with SCD is feasible with a donor pool comprised primarily of African-Americans and would optimize the use of our existing minority donor inventory. The current cost of RH genotyping all minority donors and management of the data remain limiting factors.

  • Submitted May 16, 2018.
  • Accepted July 5, 2018.
View Full Text