The Rh(esus) factor is the presence or absence of an inherited protein/antigen found on the surface of red blood cells. It was identified in the 1930s by Karl Landsteiner (who had discovered blood types in 1900) and Alexander Weiner when they were researching the causes of and solutions for mysterious deaths of dozens of babies each day. It is usually indicated by a “+” or “-“ after the blood type (A+, B-. and so forth). A “+” indicates that the Rh (D) antigen is present; a “-“, that it is not.
Most people have heard about the Rh factor (originally named the Rhesus factor because it was believed to be similar to an antigen found in the blood of Rhesus macaque monkeys) because of its importance in blood transfusions and in cases of Rh- mothers who are carrying Rh+ babies. Let’s talk about those considerations first.
In a blog post entitled Blood Type Diet Basics, I laid out how certain antigens (or a separate substance known as the H substance) on the surface of red blood cells determine a person’s ABO blood type. Included there is an image that shows the positioning of antigens on the red cells and antibodies in the plasma (white cells). Imagine that, in addition to ABO antigens or H substance markers, there might also be D antigens (see the featured image on this post). These would indicate the presence of the Rh factor (Rh+). If you are interested in knowing the current blood type/Rh factor distribution percentages across ethnicities in the U.S., click here.
The Red Cross keeps these statistics because blood donation requires knowledge of the donor’s ABO type and Rh factor so that the recipient can receive the blood safely. This is based on both antigens and antibodies. Since type O blood has no ABO antigens on the red blood cells and both A and B antibodies in the plasma, type O individuals can donate blood to anyone but can only receive O blood. Type A blood can donate to type A or type AB persons; type A can receive O, A, or AB blood. Type B can donate to B or AB persons; type B can receive O, B, or AB blood. And type AB can donate only to AB but can receive from all types. The exception to this is the presence or absence of the Rh factor. Rh+ blood can only be donated to and received by Rh+, whereas Rh- blood can be donated to both Rh+ and Rh- blood; Rh- persons must receive Rh- blood.
HDN and RhoGAM
This brings us to the issue of hemolytic disease of a newborn (HDN). Remember that we stressed above the Rh- blood cannot safely receive Rh+ blood. What, then, happens when an Rh- mother is carrying an Rh+ baby? If this is the first such pregnancy, there is little chance of harm to the baby unless some trauma or other medical issue arises causing a mixing of the mother’s blood with the baby’s blood in the womb. Even if there is a completely safe pregnancy and delivery, there a great chance of some mixing of blood during delivery. When this happens, the mother retains some Rh+ blood. If the mother has not been given a RhoGAM shot, these Rh+ antigens cause the development of antibodies (the Rh- blood thinks it is under attack) that can create a risk of attack and destruction of the next baby’s red blood cells (HDN). RhoGAM is the shortened version of Rho(d) Immune Globulin Human, an FDA-approved vaccine invented at Columbia University in the 1960s that suppresses the immune response to Rh+ blood in mothers who are Rh-. RhoGAM continues to be the solution of choice for Rh- mothers, but – as with all medicines – there can be side effects.
WHAT ARE THE ODDS of being Rh-?
The best summary answers that I have found for the U.S. population are here. In the global population, high percentages of Rh- blood are found among the Basques in Spain and France, among Eastern/Sephardic Jews, and among populations in the Caucuses mountains of Asia. These populations are generally very long-lived, at least in part of because of the high genetic incidence of the Rh- trait.
Europeans in general have the highest incidence of Rh- blood; and Africans, Asians, and Native Americans, the lowest.
There appears to be no difference in incidence of Rh- factor by gender.
HOW CAN Rh+ PARENTS produce an Rh- CHILD?
Rh factor is actually a blood group with over 45 known antigens. Each child inherits 3 antigens from each parent, and each donation is noted as an allele (variation, as in D for Rh+ and d for Rh-) on the gene location. I won’t go into the naming conventions for the individual antigens (there are multiple naming conventions, and they can get confusing).
What’s important to know is that only about 45% of Rh+ parents are homozygous – they inherited Rh+ alleles from both parents and always produce Rh+ alleles. About 55% of Rh+ parents are heterozygous – they inherited an Rh+ allele from one parent and an Rh- allele from the other. The Rh+ factor is dominant over the Rh- factor when both are present (one parent giving an Rh+ allele and the other, an Rh- allele). However, two Rh+ parents can have an Rh- child about 25% of the time when BOTH parents are heterozygous and BOTH parents pass on the Rh- allele to the child.
A 2016 study showed that this heterozygote advantage probably maintains the presence of Rh- blood in the human population.
ADVANTAGES and DISADVANTAGES of Rh- BLOOD
The same 2016 study cited above also lists many medical disadvantages and some advantages of having Rh- blood. Other sources show that Typhoid is found more frequently in persons with Rh-blood and the Rh- blood is more susceptible to tuberculosis and sarcoidosis.
Rh+ and Rh- blood appear to be about equally likely to develop colorectal cancer. Rh- persons are more likely to have localized colon cancer (a relative advantage), while Rh+ persons are more likely to have metastatic disease, especially involving the lymph nodes.
Since Rh- blood is a genetic mutation, there are instances when the mutation can be protective. One important instance is the presence of certain parasites like Toxoplasma, which can invade the body and damage the brain, especially in babies. Rh- blood appears to combat these parasites readily. Further research may find other parasites that are equally affected by the presence of Rh- blood.
PERSONALITY TRAITS of Rh- BLOOD
One of my favorite articles offers some Rh- personality traits (you may see them as advantages or disadvantages)
- You prefer facts over opinions. You tend to clash with those who treat opinions as truth.
- You feel separate from others. You tend to pursue creative careers that seek out facts to further human knowledge.
- You struggle to form friendships (usually 1-3 true friends). You test to find out if others are authentic.
- You are the smartest person you know. You tend to have the highest IQ level and to do well as an entrepreneur.
- You experience unusual encounters. Others perceive you as being intensely trustworthy, and you tend to encounter at least one person a day who wants to share a personal story.
- You experience unusual events. Examples are vivid dreams and the ability to predict the future. (Note: Rh- persons are more likely to report being kidnapped by aliens. I believe this is what has led to the completely unproven online theory that Rh- blood comes from aliens.)
- You experience the emotions of others physically and mentally and have a high emotional IQ.
- You have a high level of intuition. You sense the truth about others even when they may be intentionally trying to mislead you. You can also sense that “something is coming” as in #6 above.
- You have one major phobia. This arises because you tend to rehearse every single scenario that might happen in the course of daily events. The two most common phobias reported are fear of heights and of flying.
- You struggle with mental illness, especially depression.
- You are comfortable in isolation. It is rare for you to attend social events to go places with the goal of forming new relationship. You believe that if relationships are to happen, they will come to you. You tend to have a very close bond with your spouse/partner.
Persons with AB blood tend to have the highest IQ levels and GPA averages. This coupled with Rh- blood (see #4 in the list above) can explain why your AB- friend or family member (or YOU!) really is the smartest of the smart.
Someone asked me recently if it is true that Rh- blood is responsible for instances of extra vertebrae. About 10% of the population have an extra vertebra (6th lumbar) in the back that is considered a genetic abnormality. And about 0.2-0.5% of the population have an extra neck “rib” that arises from the 7th cervical vertebra, is located above the first true rib, and is considered a congenital abnormality. These conditions do not normally cause medical problems and don’t appear to be connected to the Rh factor.
In terms of the GenoType diet (included in the Blood Type Diet), many members of the people groups most likely to have Rh- blood would be “Explorers” and could tend also to be left-handed and non-secretors. The Explorer GenoType is largely a GenoType of blood groups A and O, although numbers of type B individuals with African ancestry will GenoType as Explorer as well as some northern Europeans, principally female. A common hallmark of Explorer is the interweaving of A and O blood types in the maternal lineage, with many Explorer GenoTypes having mothers who are type A blood, but who are children of mothers who were type O blood. This intergenerational A-O weaving gives Explorer its unique patterning of epigenetic silencing and activation. Other blood groups of interest that often signal the Explorer GenoType are the Lewis Double Negative and Duffy Null Allele in Africans.
There are rare instances when a person’s Rh factor can change from positive to negative.
There are reports that Rh- persons have lower average body temperature, higher average blood pressure, increased sensitivity to heat and light, and that they cannot be cloned.
“Change Your Genetic Destiny”, Dr. Peter J. D’Adamo, 2007, Broadway Books, New York
“Eat Right 4 Your Type”, revised 2nd edition, Dr. Peter J. D’Adamo, 2016, New American Library, New York
“Live Right 4 Your Type”, Dr. Peter J. D’Adamo, 2001, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, New York
https://www.rhesusnegative.net/staynegative (just for fun)
Let me know if you know of published studies on these or any other topics related to Rh- blood that could enhance the information in this post. The more I learn about the blood, the more I am convinced that the essence of life and optimal wellness is truly found there.
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