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Indian Journal of Transfusion Medicine
  Indian Journal of Transfusion Medicine Indian Journal of Transfusion Medicine

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ABO Blood Group Discrepancies: Causes And resolution

                                                                                          Vijay Kumawat

                                                                                                                                                       M.D.

                                                                                          Neelam Marwaha

                                                                                                                                                  M.D.FAMS

                                                                                           Ratti Ram Sharma

                                                                                                                                             M.D.

Introduction

The ABO system contains four major ABO phenotypes:  A, B, O and AB. The four phenotypes are determined  by the presence or absence of two antigens (A and B) on red cells.ABO system is also characterized by the presence or absence of naturally occurring antibodies termed iso-hemaagglutinins, directed against missing A and B antigens. It is believed that the immunizing source for such naturally occurring antibodies is gut and environmental bacteria which have been shown to possess ABO like structures on their lipopolysaccharide coats1. Donor blood samples are routinely grouped for ABO at the time of donation. Recipient blood samples are grouped for ABO before transfusion. ABO grouping requires both antigen typing of red cells for A and B antigen (forward grouping or direct grouping) and screening of serum or plasma for the presence of Anti- A or Anti-B isoagglutinins (reverse grouping or plasma  grouping). Both direct and reverse grouping are required for donors and patients because each grouping serves as a check on the other. A discrepancy exists when the results of red cell antigen grouping do not agree with serum grouping. The discrepancy may arise because of technical errors or

clinical conditions of the patients. All technical factors that may have given rise to the ABO discrepancy should be reviewed and corrected. It is also essential to obtain information regarding the patient’s age, diagnosis, transfusion history, medications, and history of pregnancy. If the discrepancy appears to be due to an error in specimen collection or identification, a new  sample should be drawn from the patient and the forward and reverse grouping repeated.

Common sources of technical errors resulting in ABO discrepancies - 

•  Inadequate identification of blood specimen, test tubes

•  A mix up in samples

•  Clerical error

•  Cell suspension either too heavy or too light

•  Failure to add reagent

•  Failure to follow manufacturer’s instruction

•  Contaminated poor quality reagent

•  Missed observation of haemolysis

•  Uncalibrated centrifuge

•  Unclean/ contaminated glassware 

ABO discrepancies may be arbitrarily divided  into four major categories -

Group I Discrepancies - 

These are associated with unexpected reactions in the reverse grouping due to weakly reacting or missing antibodies. Discrepancies in this group includes

I.    Infants less than 4-6 month of age2,3: Anti-A and anti-B agglutinins (IgM) produced by the infant can first be demonstrated at 3–6 months1, 4. Anti-A and anti-B if present in cord sera are usually IgG and are of maternal origin. Reverse ABO grouping in infants is not warranted before 6 months of age2.

II.   Elderly patients 5, 6: Earlier studies showed a progressive decrease in anti-A and -B agglutinin titers with age, with low levels (titer 4 or less) being common in subjects aged 80 years or more5, 7. However in a study by Maur et al8 decline in titres was not observed. 

III. Severe hypogammaglobulinemia: Anti A and Anti B are often present in very low concentration in patients with inherited immunodeficiency and in rare X-linked Wiskott- Aldrich syndrome 9. Anti-A and anti-B may also be present in very low concentration in patient  immunosuppressed by therapy or disease and in  patients undergoing intensive plasma exchange. 

IV. ABO incompatible HPC transplantation: ABO incompatible HPC transplantation with induction of tolerance e.g. group A patient receiving group O bone marrow will have circulating group O red cell but will only produce Anti B antibody. 

V. In chimerism: That is, a person with dual population of cells from more than one zygote. Presence of two populations of red cells of different ABO group may lead to absence of antibodies1. Twin chimerism occurs when hematopoietic stem cells migrate between vascular bridges which allow mixing of blood between two fetuses. chimeric twins have immune tolerance; they do not make against A ro B antigens that are absent from their own red cells but present on cells of engrafted  twins. 

VI. Pediatric patients receiving long term parentral and entral nutrition which is sterile and free of bacteria10. It is believed that the immunizing source for such naturally occurring antibodies is gut and environmental bacteria which have been shown to possess ABO like structures on their lipopolysaccharide coats1. 

Resolution of group I discrepancies 

a. It can be resolved by enhancing weak or missing reaction by incubating the patient’s serum with reagent A1 and B cells at room temperature for 15-30 minutes 

b. If there is still no reaction after centrifugation, serum cell mixture is incubated at 40 C for 15-30 minutes 

Note: an autocontrol and O cell control must always be tested concurrently to detect reactivity of other commonly occurring cold agglutinins e.g. anti I 

Group II discrepancies

These are associated with unexpected reactions in forward grouping due to weakly reacting or missing antigen. Discrepancies in this group includes 

I.  Subgroups of A or B11: subgroups of A antigen ( Ax, Am, Ay, Ael) which are not agglutinated or weakly agglutinated by most anti A. subgroups of B antigen (Bx, Bm, Bel) ) which are not agglutinated or weakly agglutinated by most anti B. Both can present as group II discrepancies.

II.  Leukaemia may yield weakened A or B antigen12: In acute leukaemia, the A antigen may be weakened13. Sometimes the blood appears to contain a mixture of group A and group O cells14, 15 or of A1 and weak A14. In other cases the red cells react weakly with anti-A, even behaving like A3 or Am15. In a patient with erythroleukaemia, of group B, 60% of the cells were not agglutinated by anti-B and appeared to be group O, but were really very weak B, when separated from  the normal B cells they would absorb anti-B12.

III. Acquired B16, 17, B(A) and A(B) phenotypes: Acquired B’ results from the action of bacterial deacetylase, which converts N-acetylgalactosamine to ?-galactosamine, which is very similar to galactose, the chief determinant of B. The second type of acquired B that may be called the ‘passenger antigen’ type is caused by adsorption of B-like bacterial products on to O or A cells but occurs only in vitro18.

IV. Out of group transfusion or ABO mismatched  hematopoietic progenitor stem cell transplantation: ABO compatible but not identical transfusion of red cell (e.g. group O red cells transfused to group A or B person) results in artificially induced chimerism. ABO mismatched hematopoietic stem cell transplant (e.g. group O person transplanted with group A or B marrow, group A or B person transplanted with  group O marrow). 

V. Neutralization of anti A and anti B typing reagent by high concentration of A or B soluble substances in serum with serum or plasma suspended red cell 

VI. Chimerism in fraternal twins, mosaicism arising from dispermy: Tetra-gametic or dispermic chimeras present with chimerism in all tissues and are more frequently identified because of infertility and rarely because of mixed populations of red cells 

Resolution of group II discrepancies 

a.  Weaker reactions with antisera can be resolved by enhancing reaction of antigen with respective antisera by incubating test mixture at room temperature for 15-30 minutes 

b.   Sub groups causing group discrepancies can be resolved by adsorption elution studies 

c.   Acquired B phenomenon can be resolved by lowering PH of monoclonal antisera. Anti B in the serum of acquired B person does not agglutinate autologous red cells (autocontrol negative). Secretor status of person can resolve acquired B, saliva of acquired B person contains A substance not B substance. Serum of acquired B person contains A substance. 

d.   High concentration of A or B substance causing group discrepancies can be resolved by saline washing of red cells 

Group III discrepancies 

These are associated with protein or plasma abnormalities, rouleaux formation and pseudoagglutination. Discrepancies in this group includes 

I.      Elevated level of globulin from e.g. multiple myeloma, waldenstorm macroglobulinemia, Hodgkin lymphoma. 

II.  Elevated level of fibrinogen. 

III. Small fibrin clot in plasma or incompletely clotted serum can be mistaken for red cell agglutinates of reverse grouping. Principal: patient’s sample with abnormal concentration of serum proteins, altered serum protein ratio, or high molecular weight volume expanders can aggregate reagent red cells and can mimic agglutination. Rouleaux are red cell aggregates that adhere along their flat surfaces, giving a stacked coin  appearance microscopically. Rouleaux will disperse when suspended in saline. True agglutination is stable in the presence of saline. 

Group IV discrepancies

These discrepancies are because of miscellaneous problems. These can be due to- 

I.   Recent transfusion of out of group plasma containing component. 

II.  Cold alloantibodies (e.g. anti M) or autoantibodies (e.g. anti I), PH dependent autoantibodies, a reagent dependent antibody (e.g. EDTA, paraben) leading to unexpected positive eaction. 

III.  Recent infusion of IvIg which can contain ABO isoagglutinins. 

IV. Mix field agglutination with circulating red cell of more than one ABO type. 

V.  Polyagglutination (e.g. T activation) resulting from inherited or acquired abnormalities of red cell membrane with exposure of auto cryptantigen20. The T determinant is normally covered by N acetylneuraminic acid and can therefore be described as a cryptantigen. The antigen can be exposed by the action of bacterial or viral neuraminidases Anti-T and anti-Tn present in the serum of all subjects except infants, are presumably formed as a reaction to T and Tn present in many Gramnegative bacteria and vaccines20. Very many organisms, including pneumococci, streptococci, staphylococci,clostridia, E. coli, Vibrio cholerae and influenza viruses are capable of producing this effect in vitro. T activation may occur  in vivo. Usually, this polyagglutinability occurs as a transient phenomenon, disappearing within a few weeks or months of the time when it is first observed In the past, T activation was almost always detected by finding discrepancies between the results of testing red cells and sera in the course of ABO grouping. Nowadays, monoclonal anti-A and -B are widely used and so T activation seldom causes trouble in blood grouping. 

Resolution of group IV discrepancies 

a.   Cold autoantibodies causing false positive reaction in forward grouping can be eliminated by washing of red cell with warm saline. If warm saline fails to resolve, removal of  autoantibody with acid glycine EDTA or chloroquine can be used 

b.   Autoagglutination causing false positive reaction in reverse grouping can be resolve by incubating at 37 c for 30-60 minutes. It can also be resolved by incubating red cells in presence of either dithiothreitol or 2-mercaptoethanol. 

c.   Unexpected alloantibodies in the patient’s serum other than ABO isoagglutinins causing group discrepancy is resolved by as soon as antibody is identified (e.g. anti M), reverse grouping should be repeated by A1 and B cell that are negative for that antigen. 

d.   Unexpected ABO isoagglutinins (e.g. anti A1 in A2 or A2B) producing group discrepancies can be resolved by repeating reverse grouping using at least 3 A1, A2, B, O cell along with autocontrol. Patient’s red cell can be typed with anti A1 lectin from dolichos biflorus to determine subgroups of A antigen. 

e.  A reagent dependent antibody (anti acriflavine antibody against acriflavi used in Anti B) causing group discrepancy should be resolved by washing person’s red cell with normal saline for at least 3 times. 

Conclusion

A major reason for the clinical importance of the ABO blood group system is the obligatory presence of isoagglutinins, potent natural antibodies directed against A and B antigens lacking on an individual’s own red cell (RBC) membranes. Therefore, an individual’s ABO phenotype must be determined

both by directly testing the antigens on the RBCs and by testing the plasma for the presence of isoagglutinins. A discrepancy exists when the results of red cell antigen grouping

do not agree with serum grouping. When a discrepancy isencountered, results must be recorded, but interpretation of the ABO type must be delayed until the discrepancy is resolved. If the discrepant sample is from a potential transfusion recipient and there is a clinical urgency, it is better to issues group O,

Rh- compatible RBCs before the discrepancy is resolved. 

Bibliography

  1. Race RR, Sanger R (1975) Blood Groups in Man, 6th edn. Oxford: Blackwell Scientific Publications 
  2. Fong SW, Qaqundah BY, Taylor WF. Developmental patternsof ABO isoagglutinins in normal children correlated with the effects of age, sex and maternal isoagglutinins. Transfusion 1974; 14(6): 551-559 
  3. Grundbacher FJ. Genetics of anti-A and anti-B levels. Transfusion 1976; 16(1): 48-55 
  4. Yliruokanen A. Blood transfusions in premature infants. Ann Med Exp Biol Fenn 1948; 26(Suppl.): 6 
  5. Somer H, Knhus WJ. Blood group antibodies in old age. Proc Soc. Exp. Biol. Med. 1974; 141: 1104 
  6. Grundbacher FJ. Quantity of hemolytic anti-A and anti-B in a.individuals of a human population: correlations with isoagglutinins and effects of the individual’s age and sex. Z Immun Forsch 1967; 134: 317 
  7. Baumgarten A, Kruchok AH, Weirich F. High frequency of IgG anti-A and -B antibody in old age. Vox Sang1976; 30(4): 253-260. 
  8. Maurm C. Auf Der, Hodelu, E. Nydeggra,N D R. Rieben. Age dependency of ABO histo-blood group antibodies:reexamination of an old dogma. Transfusion 1993; 33: 915-918. 
  9. Miescher PA, Müller-Eberhard HJ (eds) (1978) Seminars in Immunopathology, vol 1: Immunodeficiency Diseases. Berlin: Springer-Verlag 
  10. Springer GF. Blood group and forssman antigenic determents shared between microbes and mammalian cells. Prog allergy 1971; 15: 9-77 
  11. Daniels GL (2002) Human Blood Groups, 2nd edn. Oxford: Blackwell Science, pp. 7–67 
  12. Bird GWG, Wingham J, Chester GH et al. (Erythrocyte membrane modification in malignant disease of myeloid and lymphoreticular tissues. Erythrocyte ‘mosaicism’ in acute erythroleukaemia. Br J Haematol 1976; 33(2): 295-299. 
  13. Van Loghem JJ, Dorfmeier H, Vander mort M. Two A antigens with abnormal serological properties. Vox sang 1957; 2(1): 16-24. 
  14. Salmon C, André R, Dreyfus B. Existe-t-il des mutations somatiques du gène de groupe sanguin A au cours de certaines leucemies aiguës? Rev Fr Étud Clin Biol 1959; 4:  468 
  15. Gold ER, Tovey GH, Benney S et al. Changes in the group A antigen in a case of leukemia. Nature 1959; 183: 892 
  16. Garratty G, Arndt P, Co S et al. Fatal ABO hemolytic transfusion reaction resulting from acquired B antigen only detectable by some monoclonal anti-B reagents. Transfusion 1993; 33 (S 9): 47S 
  17. Gerbal A, Maslet C, Salmon C. Immunological aspects of the acquired B antigen. Vox Sang 1975; 28(5): 398-403 
  18. Bird GWG (1977) Erythrocyte polyagglutination. In: CRC Handbook Series in Clinical Laboratory Science, Section D: Blood Banking. TJ Greenwalt and EA Steane (eds), vol. 1. Cleveland, OH: CRC Press, p. 443 
  19. Detecting antibodies in presence of rouleaux- saline replacement. AABB technical manual. 16th ed. Pp 903-904 
  20. Springer GF, Tegtmeyer H Origin of anti-Thomsen- Friedenreich (T) and Tn agglutinins in man and in white leghorn chicks. Br J Haematol 1981; 47(3): 453–460

 

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Dr. Vijay Kumawat
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