Hiwot Fana Specialized University Hospital in Ethiopia, Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital in Malawi, Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Center in Tanzania, and Leiden University Medical Centre have collectively developed a two-phase study to try and tackle Hemolytic Disease of the Fetus and Newborn (HDFN). By uncovering the disease burden and starting a screening and prevention program, the long-term aim is ultimately to eradicate HDFN or Rhesus Disease.
HDFN/Rhesus disease occurs when the immune system of the mother responds to the red blood cells of the baby. If left untreated, the baby become anemic, can suffer brain damage or even die. In rich countries HDFN has been a major cause of perinatal death, but nowadays prevention and treatment have virtually eradicated HDFN.
In sub-Saharan Africa, the burden of HDFN is likely still enormous, although good numbers are lacking. This is entirely unacceptable:
“It has been estimated that Rhesus disease still results in more than 160,000 perinatal deaths and 100,000 cases of disability annually, representing only a 50% reduction relative to the era before immunoglobulin administration. Such a high burden of a preventable disease should be considered completely unacceptable.”
The International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics
The research is not yet fully funded, but it is the hope of the participating parties that the funding gab will soon be filled.