Who Should Donate Blood?

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People come in all different shapes, sizes and blood types. The vast majority of blood types fall into one of the major ABO groups. However, for a small percentage of the population, finding someone else with the same blood type can be as difficult as looking for a needle in a haystack.

Red blood cells carry markers called antigens on their surface that determine one’s blood type. There are more than 600 known antigens besides A and B. Certain blood types are unique to specific racial and ethnic groups. Therefore it is essential that the donor diversity match the patient diversity.

For example, U-negative and Duffy-negative blood types are unique to the African-American community. So Sickle cell patients with these blood types must rely on donors with matching blood types in the African-American community.

When blood is phenotypically matched (i.e., close blood type match), patients are at a lower risk of developing complications from transfusion therapy. For this reason, it is extremely important to increase the number of available blood donors from all ethnic groups.

*Some Rare Blood Types by Ethnic Group

Ethnic Group Rare Blood Type

African-American U-, Fy(a-b-)

Native American, Alaskan Native RzRz

Pacific Island, Asian Jk (a-b-)

Hispanic Di(b-)

East European/Russian Jews Dr(a-)

Caucasian Kp(b-), Vel-

Importance of Type O

Different ethnic and racial groups also have different frequency of the main blood types in their populations. For example, about 45 percent of Caucasians are type O, but 51 percent of African-Americans and 57 percent of Hispanics are type O.

Type O is routinely in short supply and in high demand by hospitals – both because it is the most common blood type and because type O negative blood, in particular, is the universal type needed for emergency transfusions.

Diverse populations, therefore, play a critical role in meeting the constant need for blood.

*Chart provided courtesy of the American Red Cross.

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