The majority of human beings fall under the categories of the four major blood groups- A, B, O, and AB. Generally, the type of your blood group does not matter much in your day-to-day life, except when you need to undergo a blood transfusion. However, presently there are a few studies that are making experts wonder whether your blood group will drive how prone your body is to the coronavirus. For example, some researchers conclude that people with A-type blood groups are more prone to infection. Besides, people under this category may also develop coronavirus symptoms sooner than the rest. On the contrary, the ones who belong to the O- blood group category are the least prone to the virus and its symptoms.
Another study that seems to be the latest in the bunch regarding COVID-19 counters the above theory. It is simply a reminder to the world that science and its discoveries are all a part of an evolving process. According to recent findings by researchers in the Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital as well as the Massachusetts General Hospital, blood group is not a challenge in the scenario. They state that a person’s blood group cannot define whether he or she is vulnerable against the most severe COVID-19 symptoms such as death and intubation. However, several previous studies highlight the fact that blood groups essentially define a person’s vulnerability to ailments such as cancer.
The function of specific blood types
The reason for specifying blood groups and their role is still not clear to the world. Besides, there is a massive confusion presently about the connection of blood groups to diseases and viruses. Decoding these questions about the specification and function of blood groups will further help scientists to gauge the risks of several diseases better than before. A human evolutionary geneticist and a researcher at the National Museum of Natural History in France, Laure Segurel says that the evolutionary history of medical science is fascinating. Despite there being no particular answer to the reason for the existence of different blood groups, scientists are still hopeful.
The discovery of blood groups took place back in 1901, and the credit for the same goes to Dr. Karl Landsteiner. He was an Austrian pathologist and immunologist and also won the Nobel Prize for his incredible contrition. His other famous works include genetic traits and how you inherit your blood type from that of your parents.
History of blood transfusion
Earlier, when the discovery of blood groups was not even a thought, blood transfusion was still in existence. However, it was not as common as it is in present times. Back then, it was a risky procedure with high chances of failures. According to history, ace physician Dr. James Blundell used to work in London during the 1800s. He was one of the first-ever people to perform the blood transfusion procedure. The catch of the story is that only five out of a total of ten people survived the procedure.
There was a lack of knowledge during the earlier times, and Dr. Blundell did not know that humans can only accept blood from only a few other people. The reason is that the ABO type of blood is recognized by other antibodies. These are a vital part of the natural defense system of the body.
Apart from these, there are antigens, a blend of proteins and sugars that form the coating for the red blood cells. The antibodies can find out any kind of unknown antigens and instruct the immune system to destroy the latter. Therefore, blood transfusion from a different blood group is dangerous, and a patient may even die due to the same.
Role of the Rh Status
The Rh status of your blood is also responsible for the determination of the blood type. The Rh is like an inherited protein. It is mainly found on the surface or coating of the red blood cells. You are positive if this exists, and otherwise, you are not. The majority of people are Rh-positive, and so they can receive blood from either positive or negative blood groups. However, there is a major restriction for people who have negative Rh. It is that they can only accept blood from a negative blood group. The main reason is that the antibodies in this scenario may start reacting with other donor cells that are incompatible. Therefore, the conclusion leads us to understand that there are eight major blood types, apart from a few other rare ones.
The puzzle is evolutionary
Apart from human beings, at least 17 different species of primates are known to possess a variety of blood types. Gorillas and chimpanzees are two of the most important primates who have defined blood groups. According to a few of the most evolutionary biologists, the concept of blood groups goes several years back.
It was around 20million years back that the primates and our ancestors shared specific types of blood. The ABO blood group genetic does not influence the blood of a person. It is very active when it comes to various other organs and tissues, including the respiratory and digestive systems. This concept becomes vital when your body is fighting an infection with a different blood type, therefore protecting you from various other diseases and pathogens.
According to Laure Segurel, the evolutionary requirement of specifying blood groups may not be a way to prove their function in the blood. Instead, the specification may help understand their role in digestive and respiratory issues. She added that the two major places that attract the maximum number of bacteria and viruses are the digestive tissues and the places that help you to inhale air. So, Laure says that if you imagine a pathogen cocktail, there may be times when A is advantageous, and during other times, it may be B. While you are cycling with the different preferences, you will end up with a crowd of different blood groups.
Types of blood groups and coronavirus – is there any connection?
A couple of studies and pieces of research have come out with a connection between the novel coronavirus and a specific blood type. However, the studies involve only a handful of people and these are not even reviewed. Recently, there is a team of European scientists who published their research report about this concept.
According to their findings, people with A blood type are 45% more prone to infection in comparison to others. On the other hand, they say that people with O type blood are only 65% as likely to attract the infection. The research was done over almost 2,000 infected people in Italy and Spain. The comparison was made with almost 2,300 people who were not affected.
According to the research director at Inserm, a French medical research organization, Jacques Le Pendu, there are two assumptions about the blood type and coronavirus connection. The more popular one says that O type blood is lesser prone to any type of coagulation problems. It is because, as per records, blood clotting is one of the major forces behind the growth of COVID-19 infection.
Another way of explaining the concept is by highlighting the fact the coronavirus is responsible for carrying the antigens of the blood group of an infected person. In a way, the antibodies produced by an O type blood person may be capable of neutralizing the virus. However, we are talking about communication of virus only when a source is a person with A-type blood. The concept is very similar to that of blood transfusion.
Checking your blood group
There are several ways in which a person may find out his/her blood type. Either, a person can donate blood or go to a professional for a blood test. There are home-testing options for individuals too. These include saliva-based testing or the finger pricking method.