An antigen whose presence or absence on the surface of red blood cells forms the basis of the rhesus blood group system. (The factor was first recognized in rhesus monkeys.) Most people possess the Rh factor, i.e. they are rhesus positive (Rh+). People who lack the factor are Rh–. If Rh+ blood is given to an Rh– patient, the latter develops anti-Rh antibodies. Subsequent transfusion of Rh+ blood results in agglutination, with serious consequences. Similarly, an Rh– pregnant woman carrying an Rh+ fetus may develop anti-Rh antibodies in her blood; these will react with the blood of a subsequent Rh+ fetus, causing anaemia in the newborn baby.
Subjects: Biological Sciences.