New developments in fetal and neonatal alloimmune thrombocytopenia

Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2021 Aug;225(2):120-127. doi: 10.1016/j.ajog.2021.04.211. Epub 2021 Apr 8.


Fetal and neonatal alloimmune thrombocytopenia, the platelet equivalent of hemolytic disease of the fetus and newborn, can have devastating effects on both the fetus and neonate. Current management of fetal and neonatal alloimmune thrombocytopenia in a subsequent affected pregnancy involves antenatal administration of intravenous immune globulin and prednisone to the pregnant woman to prevent the development of severe fetal thrombocytopenia and secondary intracranial hemorrhage in utero. That therapy has proven to be highly effective but is associated with maternal side effects and is expensive. This commentary describes 4 advances that could substantially change the current approach to detecting and managing fetal and neonatal alloimmune thrombocytopenia in the near future. The first would be an introduction of a program to screen all antepartum patients in this country for pregnancies at risk of developing fetal and neonatal alloimmune thrombocytopenia. Strategies to implement this complex process have been described. A second advance is testing of cell-free fetal DNA obtained from maternal blood to noninvasively determine the fetal human platelet antigen 1 genotype. A third, in preliminary development, is creation of a prophylactic product that would be the platelet equivalent of Rh immune globulin (RhoGAM). Finally, a fourth major potential advance is the development of neonatal Fc receptor inhibitors to replace the current medical therapy administered to pregnant women with an affected fetus. Neonatal Fc receptor recycles plasma immunoglobulin G to increase its half-life and is the means by which immunoglobulin G crosses the placenta from the maternal to the fetal circulation. Blocking the neonatal Fc receptor is an ideal way to prevent maternal immunoglobulin G antibody from causing fetal and neonatal alloimmune thrombocytopenia in a fetus at risk of developing that disorder. The pertinent pathophysiology and rationale for each of these developments will be presented in addition to our thoughts relating to steps that must be taken and difficulties that each approach would face for them to be successfully implemented.

Keywords: FNAIT; FcRn; HPA-1ab; IVIG; NAITgam; intracranial hemorrhage; platelet; thrombocytopenia.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antigens, Human Platelet / genetics
  • Antigens, Human Platelet / immunology*
  • Cell-Free Nucleic Acids / genetics
  • Drug Development
  • Female
  • Genotype
  • Glucocorticoids / therapeutic use
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class I
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin G / immunology
  • Immunoglobulins, Intravenous / therapeutic use
  • Immunologic Factors / therapeutic use*
  • Integrin beta3 / genetics
  • Integrin beta3 / immunology
  • Maternal-Fetal Exchange / immunology
  • Noninvasive Prenatal Testing / methods
  • Prednisone / therapeutic use
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Diagnosis
  • Receptors, Fc / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Thrombocytopenia, Neonatal Alloimmune / diagnosis*
  • Thrombocytopenia, Neonatal Alloimmune / immunology
  • Thrombocytopenia, Neonatal Alloimmune / prevention & control*
  • Thrombocytopenia, Neonatal Alloimmune / therapy


  • Antigens, Human Platelet
  • Cell-Free Nucleic Acids
  • Glucocorticoids
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class I
  • ITGB3 protein, human
  • Immunoglobulin G
  • Immunoglobulins, Intravenous
  • Immunologic Factors
  • Integrin beta3
  • Receptors, Fc
  • Fc receptor, neonatal
  • Prednisone