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 Table of Contents  
Year : 2019  |  Volume : 16  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 51-54

Association of ABO neo-maternal incompatibility and neonatal jaundice in Nguru, Nigeria

1 Department of Haematology, Federal Medical Centre, Nguru, Yobe State, Nigeria
2 Department of Haematology, Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital, Zaria, Nigeria
3 Department of Haematology, University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital, Maiduguri, Nigeria
4 Department of Paediatrics, Federal Medical Centre, Nguru, Yobe State, Nigeria

Date of Web Publication5-Mar-2019

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Hadiza Tikau Idi
Department of Haematology, Federal Medical Centre, Nguru, Yobe State
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/njbcs.njbcs_28_18

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Context: ABO blood group antigens are inherited and specific to an individual. In pregnancy, active immunisation occurs when the foetus is of a different ABO blood group from the mother and may result in neonatal jaundice (NNJ). Therefore, monitoring and evaluation of mothers at booking and throughout pregnancy and the postpartum period is important in management. Aim: The aim of this study is to determine the prevalence of neo-maternal ABO blood group incompatibility and to assess any relationship with NNJ among mother-neonate pairs in Nguru, Northeast Nigeria. Subjects and Methods: This was a cross-sectional descriptive study of 200 pregnant women at Federal Medical Centre, Nguru, Yobe State, Nigeria in 2015. ABO blood group antigens of both mothers and neonates were determined while direct Coomb's test (DCT), full blood counts, reticulocyte counts and bilirubin assays were determined for neonates of ABO-incompatible neo-maternal pairs. Data were analysed using SPSS Version 20, and a P ≤ 0.05 was considered as statistically significant. Results: The mean age of the mothers was 26.4 ± 6.2 years. Blood group O had the highest frequencies among mothers and neonates 58% and 57.5%, respectively. Although 28% of the mother-neonate pairs were ABO blood group incompatible, only 12.5% of the incompatible neonates had a positive cord blood DCT, and only 6% of the neonates developed jaundice. There was a strong and positive association between ABO neo-maternal blood group incompatibility and NNJ P = 0.007 (Fishers' exact test), odds ratio = 8.52, 95% confidence interval; 1.665, 43.591. Conclusion: ABO neo-maternal incompatibility is common, and it has a strong positive association with NNJ. There is a need for routine neonatal ABO screening, especially where jaundice exists.

Keywords: ABO blood group, ABO neo-maternal incompatibility, neonatal jaundice

How to cite this article:
Idi HT, Awwalu S, Abjah U, Babadoko AA, Hassan A, Mohammed BM, Ibrahim I. Association of ABO neo-maternal incompatibility and neonatal jaundice in Nguru, Nigeria. Niger J Basic Clin Sci 2019;16:51-4

How to cite this URL:
Idi HT, Awwalu S, Abjah U, Babadoko AA, Hassan A, Mohammed BM, Ibrahim I. Association of ABO neo-maternal incompatibility and neonatal jaundice in Nguru, Nigeria. Niger J Basic Clin Sci [serial online] 2019 [cited 2021 May 13];16:51-4. Available from: https://www.njbcs.net/text.asp?2019/16/1/51/253407

  Introduction Top

Neonatal jaundice (NNJ) is a paediatric emergency associated with morbidity and mortality if not treated early. It affects about 1.1 million neonates globally with the majority being in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.[1] It is the fourth cause of neonatal admission after prematurity, birth asphyxia and sepsis in Nigeria.[2] When severe, it may affect the brain more especially the basal ganglia resulting in either acute or chronic bilirubin encephalopathy.[3] About 50% of term and 60%–80% of pre-term babies develop jaundice in their 1st week of life which resolves spontaneously after 1–2 weeks.[4] Jaundice can be physiological when it occurs on the 2nd–4th day of neonatal life. However, jaundice occurring in the first 24 h of life is most likely pathological.[5],[6]

The most common cause of NNJ is the haemolytic disease of the foetus and new-born due to either rhesus (Rh), ABO or other minor blood group incompatibilities.[7] Intrauterine viral or bacterial infections, malaria and glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency, have also been implicated.[8] Jaundice becomes clinically visible when serum bilirubin levels exceed 5 mg/dl and affected neonates produce bilirubin at the rate of 6–8 mg/kg/day.[9]

In pregnancy, active immunisation may occur during labour when the foetus is of a different ABO blood group from the mother and NNJ may result due to this incompatibility.[10],[11] This is not a common cause of NNJ relative to Rh incompatibility. The incidence of ABO incompatibility is higher in people of African lineage than among Caucasians.[12],[13] ABO haemolytic disease of the new-born is caused by immune Immunoglobulin G maternal antibodies which can cross the placental barrier.[14] The presence of A and B antigens on cells and body fluids results in the high titre maternal immune antibodies being neutralised, hence babies do not develop jaundice in most cases.[14] However, those developing jaundice do so when sensitised red cells are destroyed by macrophages in foetal spleen resulting to hyperbilirubinaemia.[15] This most often results in mild jaundice but no anaemia. However, few cases may be severe to require either phototherapy or exchange transfusion.

Neonates are usually examined by Kramer's dermal staining of bilirubin which gives a guide to the level of bilirubin.[16] The dermal staining in the new-born occurs in a cephalocaudal direction under bright daylight.[17] Clinical examination is, however, unreliable more especially in blacks. Therefore, laboratory investigations are the best assessment tools in assessing jaundice.

Published data on the relationship between ABO incompatibility and NNJ are not readily available, especially from the North East of Nigeria. Therefore monitoring and evaluation of any intervention program will be defective due to the absence of baseline data. This study was to determine the prevalence of mother-neonate ABO blood group incompatibility and to assess any relationship with NNJ.

  Subjects and Methods Top

This was a cross-sectional descriptive study of 200 pregnant women and their neonates at the delivery suite of Federal Medical Centre, Nguru, Yobe State, Nigeria in 2015. Institutional Ethical and Scientific approval was obtained. All mothers (booked and un-booked) and their neonates (full term or preterm), who presented to the labour ward for delivery irrespective of the mode of delivery, were enrolled as they present after obtaining consent. Mothers with haemoglobin SS, positive serology for HIV, hepatitis B virus, and venereal disease research laboratory and those with a history of fever were excluded from the study. Maternal peripheral blood and neonatal cord blood were obtained; complete blood count was determined by automated haematology analyser (Shenzhen Mindray B-3200), ABO blood groups for mother-neonate pairs were determined using tile method and cord blood serum bilirubin was also analysed by Cobt c111 spectrophotometer auto-analyser. Thereafter neonates that were ABO incompatible with their mothers had cord blood direct Coomb's test (DCT) performed. Post-treatment haematological variables were also determined for neonates who developed jaundice.

Data were analysed using SPSS version 20.0. Chigaco (SPSS Inc., Chicago, IL, USA). Qualitative variables were reported as percentages and charts. Quantitative variables were summarised as means ± standard deviations. Fishers' exact test (FET) was used to determine relationship between neo-maternal ABO incompatibility and development of NNJ. The risk of developing NNJ was assessed using odds ratio (OR) with 95% confidence limits. Median pre-and post-treatment haematological variables and bilirubin levels of neonates who developed jaundice were compared using Wilcoxon–Signed Rank Tests. Levels of significance were set at P ≤ 0.05.

  Results Top

The mean age of the mothers was 26.4 ± 6.2 years. Blood Group O had the highest frequencies among mothers and neonates; 116 (58.0%) and 115 (57.5%), respectively [Figure 1]. Only 8/200 (4.0%) of the neonates developed jaundice. Although 56 (28.0%) of the mother-neonate pairs were ABO blood group incompatible, only 7/56 (12.5%) of the incompatible neonates had positive cord blood DCT results. More neonates with neo-maternal ABO incompatibility developed jaundice compared to those who were compatible (6/8 [75.0%] vs. 2/8 [25.0%], Z = 3.266, P = 0.001).
Figure 1: Maternal and neonatal ABO blood Groups among 200 mother-neonate pairs

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There was a strong and positive association between ABO neo-maternal blood group incompatibility and NNJ P = 0.007 (FET), OR = 8.52, 95% confidence interval; 1.665, 43.591. The eight neonates who developed jaundice were subsequently followed up. One neonate died while on admission and three left against medical advice. Only four were followed up to discharge, their bilirubin levels and haematological parameters were compared before and after treatment [Table 1] and [Table 2].
Table 1: Comparison of bilirubin levels of jaundiced neonates before and after treatment (n=4)

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Table 2: Comparison of haematological parameters of jaundiced neonates before and after treatment (n=4)

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  Discussion Top

The neonatal blood group in this study showed a predominance of blood Group O whereas AB is the least. This is comparable to the studies done by Nwauche et al. (2012)[18] and Omotade et al.[19] in Ibadan. Similarly, the mothers showed a predominance of blood Group O similar to the reports of Babadoko et al.[20] in Nguru; it is also similar to the study by Nwauche et al. (2012)[18] in Port Harcourt. The similarities with other studies may be attributed to the same nationality.

Twenty-eight percent of neo-maternal pairs were ABO incompatible which was higher than the findings by Ella et al.[21] in Zaria but lower than the reports of Oseni andAkomolafe[22] in Osogbo. Although, blood Group O was the most frequent among both the mothers and neonates; however, ABO incompatibility still exist as was seen in other parts of the country. Thus, NNJ occurs in neonates that were incompatible with their mothers.

DCT positivity was seen in 12.5% of the ABO-incompatible neonates and this was lower than the finding of Ella et al.[21] in Zaria. This suggests that even neonates that were incompatible may not have a positive DCT or NNJ due to reasons other than ABO incompatibility like differences in the titre of the immunoglobulins, the epitopes on the red cell membrane and the sensitivity of the AHG reagents.

There was a positive association between ABO incompatibility and the presence of NNJ in this study which was similar to the works of Zabeen et al. in Bangladesh.[23] This showed that the risk assessment of ABO incompatibility is higher. Also, the OR ‘a measure of association between an exposure and an outcome’[24] showed there was a strong positive association between NNJ and ABO incompatibility.

Although our data suggest that there was no statistically significant difference between the levels of unconjugated bilirubin before or after treatment, this should be interpreted with caution as it may be due to the small sample size involved. This is because point estimates reveal reductions in all pre-treatment bilirubin fractions following treatment with clinical improvement of neonates. This buttresses the need to differentiate statistically significance from clinical significance and the importance of evaluating measures of effect sizes.[25] The formation of unconjugated bilirubin in ABO incompatibility is not as severe as in Rhesus incompatibility. Thus, it rarely causes kernicterus.

Similarly, the lack of significant difference between the pack cell volume before and after treatment is similar to the finding of Patel et al. in Vadodara India.[26] Anaemia is not a common finding in ABO incompatibility as compared to Rhesus incompatibility as the level of haemolysis is mild because ABO antigens are present on the tissues other than the RBCs, allowing neutralisation and also ABO antigens are not fully developed on neonatal RBCs.[27]


Small sample size, as well as testing for other blood group types (Rhesus, Kell and Kidd) which are also responsible for NNJ. Further studies should include larger sample size as well as use of all compatible neonates as control.

  Conclusion Top

ABO neo-maternal incompatibility is common and it has a strong, positive association with NNJ. There is a need for instituting preventive measures by a policy requiring mandatory screening of all mother-neonate pair as well as health education of mothers on the dangers of NNJ.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

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Martin CR, Cloherty JP. Neonatal hyperbilirubinaemia. In: Cloherty JP, Eichenwald EC, Stark AR, editors. Manual of Neonatal Care. 6th ed. Wolters Kluwer Lippincott Williams and Wilkins; 2008. p. 182-212.  Back to cited text no. 3
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Vos GH, Adhikari M, Coovadia HM. A study of ABO incompatibility and neonatal jaundice in black South African newborn infants. Transfusion 1981;21:744-9.  Back to cited text no. 12
Bucher KA, Patterson AM Jr., Elston RC, Jones CA, Kirkman HN Jr. Racial difference in incidence of ABO hemolytic disease. Am J Public Health 1976;66:854-8.  Back to cited text no. 13
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Kramer LI. Advancement of dermal icterus in the jaundiced newborn. Am J Dis Child 1969;118:454-8.  Back to cited text no. 16
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Nwauche CA, Eneh AU, Pughikumo CO, Chijioke-Nwauche IN. ABO and Rhesus blood groups in mothers and their newborns in Port Harcourt, Nigeria. Port Harcourt Med J 2012;4:455-59.  Back to cited text no. 18
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  [Figure 1]

  [Table 1], [Table 2]


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