Letter to the Editor

Ann Lab Med 2020; 40(2): 190-192

Published online March 1, 2020

Copyright © Korean Society for Laboratory Medicine.

Extended Red Blood Cell Phenotype Matching Is Dependent on Ethnicity and Specificity of RBC Alloantibodies

Hyun-Young Kim, M.D.1 , Yoo Na Chung, M.D.1 , and Duck Cho, M.D.1,2

1Department of Laboratory Medicine and Genetics, Samsung Medical Center, Sungkyunkwan University School of Medicine, Seoul, Korea; 2Department of Health Sciences and Technology, Samsung Advanced Institute for Health Sciences and Technology, Sungkyunkwan University, Seoul, Korea

Correspondence to: Duck Cho, M.D., Ph.D.
Department of Laboratory Medicine & Genetics, Samsung Medical Center, Sungkyunkwan University School of Medicine, 81 Irwon-ro, Gangnam-gu, Seoul 06351, Korea
Tel: +82-2-3410-2403, Fax: +82-2-3410-2719, E-mail:

Received: September 26, 2019; Revised: October 10, 2019; Accepted: October 14, 2019

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License ( which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

To the Editor,

We would like to thank Balbuena-Merle and colleagues [1] for their interest in our study of red blood cell (RBC) alloimmunization in Korean patients with myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) and liver cirrhosis (LC) [2]. There is a high prevalence of sickle cell disease (SCD) in Africa, the Middle East, India, parts of the Mediterranean, and Puerto Rico, and high rates of RBC alloimmunization in SCD patients have been reported in these regions [3]. In contrast, SCD is extremely rare in Korea, and alloimmunization in SCD patients has never been documented. The frequencies of C, c, E, e, Fya, Jka, M, and K antigens differ across races. The K antigen is particularly important as it has high immunogenicity; however, the frequencies of the K antigen and the anti-K alloantibody are extremely low in the Korean and other South East Asian (i.e., Chinese and Japanese) populations, unlike in European and Caucasian populations [4,5].

With respect to the transfusion policies, the study by Balbuena-Merle, et al. [1] from Puerto Rico was different from our study in Korea because of the differences in disease prevalence and alloantibody formation. While 91% of pediatric SCD patients SCD received RBCs matched for at least ABO, Rh, and K blood groups (limited RBC matching), none of the patients in our study received RBCs matched for groups other than ABO and RhD (Table 1). However, the overall alloimmunization rate (15.4% [8/52 patients] vs 6.3% [20/317 patients]) was much lower in our study despite the similar amount of transfused RBC units; this was considered to be due to the higher ethnic homogeneity of Koreans than that of Puerto Ricans. Although Balbuena-Merle, et al. [1] described Puerto Ricans as a genetically homogeneous group, their population comprises Caucasians (74.7%), people of African descent (15.3%), and other populations according to the 2013–2017 American Community Survey [6]. We additionally calculated the prevalence of alloantibody formation per transfusion events. After transfusion of 5,886 RBC units, the formation of 29 alloantibodies was recorded, and the prevalence of alloantibody formation per transfusion event was 0.49 alloantibodies per 100 units. Among the disease groups, the prevalence of alloantibody formation per transfusion event was the highest in the LC group (1.13 per 100 units), followed by the MDS group (0.22 per 100 units), and the prevalence among Puerto Rican patients was 3 per 100 units.

In our study, the most common alloantibody was that against the Rh system, found in 80% of alloimmunized patients. However, Balbuena-Merle, et al. [1] reported only one patient with an Rh alloantibody (anti-E), and as expected, this must be the effect of limited or extended RBC phenotype matching. Several studies have reported reduced alloimmunization rates after limited RBC antigen (ABO, Rh, and Kell systems)-matched transfusion [7,8].

Although RBC alloimmunization rates in Korea are low, these values are set to change in the near future owing to increased rates of immigration and interethnic marriages [9]. Both these factors could lead to changes in the RBC antigen expression profile and thereby the alloimmunization rate and alloantibody distribution of the population [5]. Therefore, continuous monitoring of RBC alloimmunization for various conditions is needed. 191When the specificity of RBC alloantibodies in Koreans changes significantly, the introduction of extended RBC antigen matching should be considered in Korea.

Conflicts of Interest: None declared.

Comparison of the studies by Kim, et al. [2] and Balbuena-Merle, et al. [1] for RBC antigen prevalence and alloimmunization rate

StudyKim, et al. [2]Balbuena-Merle, et al. [1]
Study PopulationAdult LC and MDS patientsPediatric SCD population
EthnicityKoreanPuerto Rican
RBC phenotype matchingABO/D matchedABO/D matched and other phenotype matched (limited- and/or extended matched)
RBC alloimmunization rate6.3%15.4%
Prevalence of alloantibody formation per transfusion events0.49 per 100 units3 per 100 units
Prevalence of RBC antigens*
Identified RBC alloantibodies (N)
 Anti-E13 (45%)1 (11%)
 Anti-c5 (17%)0
 Anti-e3 (10%)0
 Anti-C2 (7%)0
 Anti-M04 (44%)
 Anti-Fya02 (22%)
 Anti-Fyb2 (7%)0
 Anti-Jka2 (7%)1 (11%)
 Anti-K01 (11%)

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