Biologic roles of the ABH and Lewis histo-blood group antigens Part I: infection and immunity

Vox Sang. 2019 Jul;114(5):426-442. doi: 10.1111/vox.12787. Epub 2019 May 9.


The ABH and Lewis antigens were among the first of the human red blood cell polymorphisms to be identified and, in the case of the former, play a dominant role in transfusion and transplantation. But these two therapies are largely twentieth century innovations, and the ABH and related carbohydrate antigens are not only expressed on a very wide range of human tissues, but were present in primates long before modern humans evolved. Although we have learned a great deal about the biochemistry and genetics of these structures, the biological roles that they play in human health and disease are incompletely understood. This review and its companion, to appear in a later issue of Vox Sanguinis, will focus on a few of the biologic and pathologic processes which appear to be affected by histo-blood group phenotype. The first of the two reviews will explore the interactions of two bacteria with the ABH and Lewis glycoconjugates of their human host cells, and describe the possible connections between the immune response of the human host to infection and the development of the AB-isoagglutinins. The second review will describe the relationship between ABO phenotype and thromboembolic disease, cardio-vascular disease states, and general metabolism.

Keywords: blood groups; epidemiology; transfusion medicine.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • ABO Blood-Group System / immunology*
  • Blood Transfusion
  • Erythrocytes / immunology
  • Humans
  • Lewis Blood Group Antigens / immunology*
  • Polymorphism, Genetic


  • ABO Blood-Group System
  • Lewis Blood Group Antigens