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Severe IgA-mediated auto-immune haemolytic anaemia in a 48-yr-old woman

Authors


Catherine Mengis, MD, Division of Haematology, Kantonsspital, CH-6000 Lucerne 16,Switzerland
Tel: + 41 41 205 5147
Fax: + 41 41 205 2197
e-mail: walter.wuillemin@ksl.ch

Abstract

Abstract: Auto-immune haemolytic anaemia (AIHA) is characterised by haemolysis associated with the presence of the immunoglobulins IgG, IgM or IgA, and/or components of the complement system on the red cell membrane. The immunoglobulins react as auto-antibodies against the red cell antigens of the patient. IgG antibodies and the complement component C3d can be detected by the direct antiglobulin test (DAT); however, IgM and particularly IgA antibodies may not necessarily be detected by the broad-spectrum anti-human-globulin serum. We present the case of a 48-yr-old woman with severe AIHA. The initial polyspecific direct antiglobulin test (DAT), using a broad-spectrum antiserum, was negative. Testing with monospecific antisera led to the diagnosis of AIHA due to warm-acting auto-antibodies solely of the IgA class, which is a very rare finding. As therapy with steroids alone did not lead to a lasting remission, splenectomy was performed 10 months after initial diagnosis. There has been no relapse of AIHA since, even after steroid medication was withdrawn and even though the monospecific IgA-DAT has remained positive. This case demonstrates the importance of performing a monospecific antiglobulin test if there is a strong suspicion of AIHA in apparently ‘Coombs-negative’ haemolytic anaemia. In AIHA caused by solely IgA antibodies, the polyspecific direct antiglobulin test may be negative or only weakly positive because of a limited content of anti-IgA antibodies in the polyspecific anti-human-globulin serum. First-line treatment of warm-type AIHA is the administration of high-dose glucocorticosteroids; splenectomy is indicated in steroid-refractory patients.

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