A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine suggests that some blood types may be more equipped to fend off the novel coronavirus than others. Novel viruses have a history of reacting differently to various blood types. Patients with type O blood could have antibodies in their systems that reduce the risk of severe illnesses. Researchers are closely studying this trend, and if this theory turns out to be correct, it could have major implications for our response to the current pandemic.
How Different Blood Types React to the Virus
Researchers examined 1,610 patients suffering from “severe” respiratory failure who had tested positive for COVID-19. Of these participants, those with type O blood seemed to be less susceptible to the effects of COVID-19 than those with non-O blood types. Furthermore, type A blood groups proved to be the most vulnerable to the disease. The study also found that the presence of six specific genes may also help people recover from the virus.
Every blood type comes with a different portfolio of antibodies. Type O blood types have A and B antibodies on their plasma, which may help the body fight off infection. This may also help patients avoid some of the severe side-effects of COVID-19, including blood clots, stroke, and thromboembolism. According to researchers, multiple studies have confirmed that type O groups are less susceptible to these blood conditions, but it’s not clear if it will help these patients fight off the coronavirus.
Researchers say the results could be a game-changer, but more work needs to be done. The study was limited in size and scope, and has yet to be peer-reviewed, so they are urging health officials to take this information with a grain of salt. Those with type O blood shouldn’t assume that they are immune to the virus, but the results could change our understanding of this deadly disease.
Understanding the History of Coronaviruses
This isn’t the first time researchers have shown a correlation between patient outcomes and different blood types. The study mentioned above seems to corroborate similar studies on novel coronaviruses, including one conducted in Wuhan, China at the start of the pandemic back in December 2019.
During the study in China, researchers removed other characteristics that can predict patient outcomes, including age, gender, and history of chronic disease, thus only relying on the person’s blood type. They found that type O groups seemed less susceptible to the novel coronavirus.
The same was true of the original SARS coronavirus, SARS-CoV-1, which led to a deadly outbreak back in 2003. At the time, a study of patients with the virus found that those with type O were less likely to die from the disease.
However, more recent studies, including one from Massachusetts General Hospital and the other from Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in New York, both show less of a correlation between blood type and the severity of the new coronavirus. For now, it seems the medical community is on the fence.
What Does This Mean Going Forward?
Based on this trend, researchers believe there is likely a connection between a person’s blood type and their susceptibility to COVID-19, but they’re not ready to make any sweeping predictions just yet. The study does not suggest that type O blood groups are immune to the virus, but they might have a better shot of avoiding the ICU.
If the study is peer-reviewed and accepted within the medical community, scientists could use this information to triage high-risk patients during the treatment process. Patients may be housed or quarantined together based on their blood type. This could also affect the vaccination process when one becomes available. High-risk patients and those with type A blood may be first in line for a vaccine if these trends prove to be true.
We should know more about this issue in the months ahead, but for now, it’s best to err on the side of caution, regardless of your blood type.