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The Rh Negative Blood Controversy

Over the years a number of books and articles have been written linking the UFO phenomenon to people who have Rh negative blood. Here’s a link to one such example, and here’s another. It was not until the dawning of the twentieth century that the first, initial steps were taken to fully understanding the precise nature of blood. As incredible as it may sound, experiments to transfuse blood from human to human, and from animal to animal, date back as far as the mid-1600s. Despite the ups and downs of these early experiments, right up until the latter part of the 19th Century matters were very much misunderstood on the issue of blood – and, very often, tragically so, too. This all became acutely clear during the turbulent American Civil War of 1861 to 1865, in which no less than 600,000 individuals lost their lives, as north and south went to war in violent and bloody fashion.

When trying to save the lives of soldiers exhibiting terrible, battlefield-based wounds from the devastating effects of bullets, blades, and cannons – many of which provoked significant and life-threatening blood loss – military doctors were left with no option but to transfuse blood from healthy and hardy individuals into the bloodstreams of the critically injured. On some occasions, the procedures worked perfectly. On other occasions, however, they had the exact opposite outcome: the patients soon died. The reason for this distinct “Russian Roulette”-style situation was a deep mystery, at the time. As a result, transfusions in the United States were seen as being very much a last resort; in much of Europe of the 1800s, however, blood transfusions were viewed not as a last resort, but as a definitive no-go area – period. At least, that is where things stood until the first decade of the 20th Century. That is when history was well and truly made by a man named Karl Landsteiner, a Nobel Prize-winning physician and biologist from Austria; a man who forever changed the face of medicine, and who also happened to be the co-discoverer (with Romanian microbiologist Constantin Levaditi and Erwin Popper, an Austrian physician) of the polio virus.


Karl Landsteiner

Karl Landsteiner’s groundbreaking work demonstrated something that, at the time, was deemed remarkable: blood serum, which is the liquid portion that encompasses the blood cells of the human body, was not identical in all individuals. Indeed, not identical in the slightest: Landsteiner’s studies revealed that there was not just one blood group, after all. Four decades later, Landsteiner and a colleague, a New York Doctor of Medicine named Alexander Solomon Weiner, stumbled upon something else, something equally as remarkable as Landsteiner’s earlier discoveries. As well as conducting groundbreaking research in relation to matters concerning human blood and their various groups, Landsteiner and Weiner undertook experimentation on monkeys, specifically on Rhesus macaques.

They are what are termed “Old World Monkeys” and can be found across much of south and central Asia, their territory extending from Afghanistan to China. Not only that: Rhesus macaques and the Human race shared a common ancestor up until around 25 million years ago, when a divergence occurred and the two went their separate ways. On top of that, macaques have a DNA sequence that is 93 percent identical to that of the Human race. This latter issue of a close tie between Rhesus macaques and people is why so much research into human diseases and viruses is undertaken on macaques, which is very unfortunate for the macaques. As someone who cares a lot about animal rights, I find this very unsettling. But, that’s a topic and a debate for another day.

Landsteiner and Weiner – during the course of their studies – elected to inject the blood of the Rhesus macaques into other, very different animals, including both guinea pigs and rabbits. It was an action that caused the blood of the animals to clot. To his astonishment, Landsteiner found that the clotting was caused by a further antigen, or protein, that, up until 1940, had not been recognized or even detected by anyone in the medical community. Most significant of all, additional work demonstrated that the hitherto unknown antigen at issue was also found to be present in people. Landsteiner decided to term it the Rh Factor – “Rh” standing for “Rhesus,” of course. And there was yet another discovery too, one that gets to the very heart of the subject matter: that there were some individuals who completely lacked the Rh Factor. They were, and are, the Rh negatives.

Rhesus macaque

The most significant – and also deeply worrying – side-effect of being Rh negative relates to the matter of pregnancy. Actually, it’s the one and only adverse side-effect: giving birth aside, being RH negative has no major, adverse bearing whatsoever upon matters relative to health. In fact, there may very well be notable benefits, health-wise, when it comes to being Rh negative.  For a pregnant woman who is Rh negative, however, the hazards can be both considerable and extremely dangerous. If a woman who is Rh negative is made pregnant by a man who is also Rh negative, the problems are non-existent and there is no need for concern: both individuals are wholly compatible with one another, the fetus will develop in normal fashion, and the child will be born Rh negative. If, however, the father is Rh positive and the mother is Rh negative, that’s where the problems can begin and the results may prove to be very different – and tragically so, too – as the developing fetus will be Rh positive. It is this latter issue that gets to the very crux of the problem.

As incredible as it may sound, the blood of an Rh negative pregnant woman can be completely incompatible with the blood of an Rh positive baby that she is carrying. Such a situation can very often provoke the mother’s own blood to produce potentially lethal antibodies which are designed to attack the fetus’ blood, if and when the former is exposed to the latter. In other words, the Rh positive baby is perceived by the mother’s negative immune-system as something hostile, something not quite as it should be. For all intents and purposes, the unborn child is considered something alien and something to be gotten rid of at the earliest opportunity possible. The process by which the mother effectively tries to attack and kill its very own offspring via the blood is termed sensitization. In this peculiar process, the mother’s blood crosses into the placenta and then into what is termed the fetal circulation, where it proceeds to wage war on the baby’s blood cells, which are made in the bone marrow, and that are absolutely vital for the carrying of oxygen about the body. It’s a war to the death, for all intents and purposes.

Systematically, and bit by bit, the mother’s antibodies attack the red blood cells of the baby, breaking them down, and provoking the development of what is termed hemolytic anemia. And when hemolytic anemia begins to overwhelm the fetus, the results can be disastrous and deadly. Anemia in an adult can be a serious issue; in an unborn child it can be even more so. Organs, and particularly so the heart, can be significantly and irreversibly damaged. The lack of sufficient levels of oxygen may have a disastrous effect on the development and function of the brain. In a worst case scenario, the fetus may die. More disturbing is the fact that the more times a woman becomes pregnant, the more powerful and prevalent the deadly antibodies become. In short, the mother’s body finds ways to make the process of trying to kill the fetus ever more powerful, swift, and effective with each successive pregnancy. Fortunately for a pregnant negative, there are ways and means to combat the mother’s violent assault on her unborn child. Rh Immune globulin is a blood product that is injected (via a muscle) into the mother and which prevents her body from developing the very type of antibodies that are designed to attack the fetus – providing, that is, she is not already sensitized to the Rh Factor. If she isn’t, the chances are extremely high that the pregnancy will proceed in regular fashion and the fetus will develop into a normal, healthy baby.


Nick Redfern works full time as a writer, lecturer, and journalist. He writes about a wide range of unsolved mysteries, including Bigfoot, UFOs, the Loch Ness Monster, alien encounters, and government conspiracies. Nick has written 41 books, writes for Mysterious Universe and has appeared on numerous television shows on the The History Channel, National Geographic Channel and SyFy Channel.
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