Distribution of Kell phenotype among pregnant women in Sokoto, North Western Nigeria
Introduction: Kell antigen is highly immunogenic and is the common cause of antibody production in mismatched blood transfusions, haemolytic transfusion reaction (HTR) and maternal alloimmunization, which causes severe anaemia in neonates. The aim of this study is to determine the prevalence and ethnic variation of the Kell phenotype among pregnant women in Sokoto, Nigeria. Methods: Kell antigen status of 150 pregnant women aged 18-45 years and mean age 27.19 ±4.69 years attending antenatal clinic in UDUTH Sokoto Nigeria was determined using the conventional tube method and anti-Kell reagents (Lorne Laboratories, UK). Results: Among the 150 subjects studied, 3 (2.0%) of subjects were positive and 147 (98.0) were negative for K antigen. Of the 150 pregnant subjects; 32 (21.3%) were primigravidae while 118 (78.7%) were multigravidae. Kell phenotype was more prevalent among primigravidae (3.1%) compared to multigravidae (1.7%) women. The distribution of Kell phenotype among the pregnant subjects was compared based on ethnicity. The prevalence of Kell antigen was significantly higher among the Hausa ethnic group (3.2%) compared to other ethnic groups which indicated zero prevalence (p=0.001). Kell negative phenotype was ≥ 96.8% among all the ethnic groups. Conclusion: Our observed prevalence of Kell phenotype is consistent with previous studies among Blacks and Asians but significantly lower than values observed in previous studies among Caucasians. We recommend that all pregnant women should be screened for the presence clinically significant red cell antigens including Kell antigen on their first antenatal visit. Kell negative red cell should be routinely provided for all pregnant women and women with child bearing potential to reduce the risk of Kell-associated HDFN. There is need to introduce routine screening of pregnant women for clinically significant red cell antibodies to facilitate the effective management of HDFN as well as prevent HTR. There is also need for sustained health education of pregnant women in the area to encourage early booking for antenatal care.