The direct antiglobulin test (DAT) detects the presence of immunoglobulin, complement or both bound to the red blood cell membrane. The test, historically called the ‘Coombs test’, was first described in 1945 by Cambridge immunologist Robin Coombs. Suspected haemolytic disease of the newborn, due to either Rhesus disease or ABO incompatibility, is one of most common reasons for requesting a DAT in newborns. In this article, we discuss the physiological background and technological background of the DAT. We also provide a clinical framework for a rational approach to the use and interpretation of the DAT in newborns.
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