A Comprehensive Diagnostic Algorithm for Direct Antiglobulin Test-Negative Autoimmune Hemolytic Anemia Reveals the Relative Ratio of Three Mechanisms in a Single Laboratory

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Background: Direct antiglobulin test (DAT)-negative warm autoimmune hemolytic anemia (AIHA) is mainly caused by three mechanisms: red blood cell (RBC)-bound immunoglobulin (Ig)G below the detection limit of routine DAT; RBC-bound IgA or IgM; or low-affinity autoantibodies. Although most cases of DAT-negative AIHA are thought to be caused by RBC-bound IgG, and combinatory serological analyses are recommended, the relative ratios of each mechanism have not been clarified. Methods: Two groups of patients with undiagnosed hemolytic anemia and negative conventional tube method-DAT (TM-DAT) were investigated using anti-IgA and anti-IgM sera, or column agglutination method-DAT (CM-DAT), respectively, in addition to radioimmunological quantitation of RBC-bound IgG. Results: Three of 73 patients with DAT-negative AIHA showed positive RBC-bound IgA and normal amounts of RBC-bound IgG. Another group of 3 patients were RBC-bound IgM-positive, but only one of these showed normal amounts of RBC-bound IgG. In another group of patients with DAT-negative AIHA, 4 of the 20 showed positive CM-DAT and negative CM-DAT after washing RBCs. Three of these patients had normal amounts of RBC-bound IgG. Five patients with positive CM-DAT both before and after washing RBCs had high amounts of RBC-bound IgG. Conclusion: Relative ratios of patients with DAT-negative AIHA resulting from RBC-bound IgG, RBC-bound IgA, RBC-bound IgM, and low-affinity IgG were estimated as 80, 4, 1 and 15%, respectively. A new classification and diagnostic algorithm for DAT-negative AIHA were proposed.

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