Paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria (PNH) is an acquired hematologic disorder characterized by nocturnal hemoglobinuria, chronic hemolytic anemia, thrombosis, pancytopenia, and, in some patients, acute or chronic myeloid malignancies. PNH appears to be a hematopoietic stem cell disorder that affects erythroid, granulocytic, and megakaryocytic cell lines. The abnormal cells in PNH have been shown to lack glycosylphosphatidylinositol (GPI)-linked proteins in erythroid, granulocytic, megakaryocytic, and, in some instances, lymphoid cells. Mutations in the phosphatidylinositol glycan A gene, PIGA, have been identified consistently in patients with PNH, thus confirming the biological defect in this disorder. A flow cytometric-based assay can detect the presence or absence of these GPI-linked proteins in granulocytes, monocytes, erythrocytes, and lymphocytes, thus avoiding the problems associated with red cell-based diagnostic methods (Ham test) in which recent hemolytic episodes or recent transfusions can give false-negative results. A partial list of known GPI-linked proteins include CD14, CD16, CD24, CD55, CD56, CD58, CD59, C8-binding protein, alkaline phosphatase, acetylcholine esterase, and a variety of high frequency human blood antigens. In addition, fluorescent aerolysin (FLAER) binds directly to the GPI anchor and can be used to evaluate the expression of the GPI linkage. Flow cytometry-based assays will detect all Ham-positive PNH cases, as well as some Ham-negative PNH cases. This assay replaces the sugar water test and the Ham test for the evaluation of patients with possible PNH. Patients with PNH should be transfused with ABO-specific RBCs, which do not need to be washed. If, for some reason, they need to receive non-ABO type-specific (type O) cells, these RBC units should be washed. Since recipient antibodies to granulocyte antigens can trigger hemolytic episodes in PNH, if they have such antibodies these patients should receive leukoreduced RBCs and platelets.
Also known as: Hams Test for PNH.