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Reviews Book

The Rhesus Factor and Disease Prevention. Wellcome Witnesses to Twentieth Century Medicine. Volume 22

BMJ 2005; 331 doi: (Published 06 October 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;331:851
  1. Ian M Franklin (, professor of transfusion medicine
  1. University of Glasgow

    If the past is another country, then even quite recent events in medicine can appear to be from another world. In a time when parents are showing reluctance to vaccinate their children against now almost forgotten—yet only suppressed—infectious diseases, it is good to be reminded that it is not only transmissible diseases that have been all but eliminated by the practical application of medical science. In the period immediately after the second world war, 1.6 babies per 1000 births died from Rh haemolytic disease owing to blood group incompatibility between mother and fetus. A further unspecified number was damaged dreadfully by the kernicterus caused by the toxic levels of bilirubin generated by red cell destruction. In the baby boom years of the late 1940s, Rh haemolytic disease took a heavy toll and blighted the lives …

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