The biggest question most people have in regards to COVID-19 is: What are my risks of contracting the virus? Research has already proven that chronic diseases, like type 2 diabetes, compromise people’s immune systems and make them more likely to contract the virus. But what about blood type? Does your blood type have anything to do with your ability to fight off the novel disease?
Previous research led to many rumors about blood type and coronavirus. New studies, however, reveal that the blood type and COVID-19 are not linked as much as was thought.
A central rumor that spread was that people with blood type A were at risk for developing more severe complications with COVID-19. A new study from Harvard University and the Massachusetts General Hospital actually found that people with blood types B and AB who were Rh positive had a greater chance of contracting the virus, and that type A was less susceptible to complications.
Anahita Dua, HMS assistant professor of surgery at of Massachusetts General Hospital, said that she wouldn’t consider blood type when judging the risks of coronavirus. “I wouldn’t even bring it up,” Dua said.
“We showed through a multi-institutional study that there is no reason to believe being a certain ABO blood type will lead to increased disease severity, which we defined as requiring intubation or leading to death,” said Dua.
Does type O blood have immunity?
One thing that the recent studies do agree on is that people with type O blood are less likely to be infected with coronavirus, as well as possibly less likely to suffer debilitating symptoms. Patient with type O were also found to be less susceptible to the “original” SARS virus in a 2005 study.
Public health experts urge no one to assume they are protected from the virus simply by their blood type. Everyone should still practice safety measures and wear masks.
Several studies pointed to a correlation between people with certain blood types being more likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19, while those with other blood types are able to recover much quicker and from home.
A recent study in The New England Journal of Medicine showed that patients with type A blood had a higher risk for disease involving acute respiratory syndrome, while type O blood appeared to be protective against severe disease. Specifically, the study found that people with type A blood had a 45 percent higher risk of developing a serious case of COVID-19 (needing a ventilator or leading to death), while people with type O had a 35 percent less risk.
Another early study involving cases in New York City, also published ahead of peer review, found a higher prevalence of group A blood type in patients who were SARS-CoV-2 positive and a lower prevalence of infection with group O blood type.
In addition, preliminary data recently reported by the commercial genetic testing site 23andMe also suggested a protective role for type O blood type against the novel coronavirus when compared to other blood types.
Blood specialist Parameswaran Hari, MD, of the Medical College of Wisconsin, said while the research suggesting a role for blood type in Covid-19 remains preliminary, the findings appear to be consistent. Hari was not involved with the newly published study, but he talked to BreakingMED about the findings.
“The studies are all pointing in the same direction, and that is really intriguing,” he said.
How many blood types are there?
The combination of A and B antigens and the Rh factor produces the eight major blood types: A-positive, A-negative, B-positive, B-negative, AB-positive, AB-negative, O-positive and O-negative.
Your blood type is determined in part by the presence (or absence) of A and B antigens in your red blood cells. It is pretty self-explanatory; if you have only A antigens, your blood type is A. If you have only B antigens, your blood type is B. If you have both, your blood type is AB, and if you have neither, your blood type is O.
Note: some people have a protein called Rh factor in their red blood cells. If you have it, you’re Rh positive; if not, you’re Rh negative.
What is my blood type?
Your primary care doctor should have your blood type on file, if you have done blood work with them.
If not, there are at-home tests that can tell you your blood type. Eldoncard is a popular kit that requires a small blood sample. All you have to do is then mix it with antibodies to the A and B antigens provided in the kit. If your red blood cells contain A or B antigens, they will react with the antibodies and clump up on the card.
Deciphering your blood type is simple after that. If you only see a reaction to A antibodies, your blood type is A. Same for the B antibodies. If you see a reaction to both antigens, then your blood type is AB; and if there’s no reaction, your blood type is O.