Type A Blood Converted To Universal Donor Blood With Help From Bacterial Enzymes

U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kenny Holston/CC BY-ND 2.0


Only about 7 percent of Americans have type O blood — the universal donor — whereas type A is the second most common.

A new procedure might be able to convert type A blood into the universal donor type, according to a University of British Columbia (UBC) study announced on Monday.

The paper proposes a way to convert A type into O type blood by using Flavonifractor plautii bacteria, which can help detach antigens from blood.

Blood groups A, B, and AB have antigens that make them unsuitable for people of other blood types, but group O does not. Antigens are sugars or proteins attached to red blood cells’ membranes.

Type A positive blood is the second most common in America, but only 7 percent of people in the country have type O blood, which can be donated to anyone regardless of their blood type.

Previous studies unsuccessfully attempted to remove A and B blood antigens in 1982 and 2007, but the enzymes used in those processes “were still not efficient or selective enough,” said Stephen Withers, the paper’s lead author.

UBC scientists are now conducting safety tests with blood donation nonprofit Canadian Blood Services, in order to ensure the converted red blood cells are fully functional.

“The issues of safety, safety, and safety are the top three matters on the agenda,” said Withers.

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