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People with blood type O may have lower risk of COVID-19 infection

Posted at 9:24 PM, Oct 25, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-26 04:55:20-04

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. - Many people may not even know what blood type they have, but new research linking types of blood and COVID-19 risk just might pique some curiosity.

Two peer-reviewed studies recently published in Blood Advances suggest people with type O blood may have the lowest risk of COVID-19 infection and severity if they do contract the illness.

Dr. Patrick Jackson is an infectious diseases physician at UVA Health in Charlottesville. He’s also an assistant professor at the university.

“Some studies that have been well done suggest that people with blood type O may be somewhat protected but that’s not a completely uncontroversial and it’s not 100 percent clear that that’s true as is everything in science,” Jackson said.

One study out of Denmark compared data from a large population of people who tested positive and negative for COVID to more than 2 million people who were not tested but had the same characteristics. Researchers found more people with blood types A, B and AB were COVID-19 positive. Fewer people with blood type O tested positive for the virus.

The research suggests those with type O blood may be somewhat protected, but Dr. Jackson said the level of protection is likely small and warned people can still get infected.

“Everyone still has a risk of getting COVID-19. Everyone still has a risk if they get COVID-19 of becoming quite severely ill,” he said. “Even if you have blood group O you may be a little bit better off than some of your friends who have blood type AB for example, but not at such an extent that you shouldn’t still wear masks and practice social distancing.”

Scientists also found that the possible link between blood type and COVID risk might have to do with antibodies in different people, which Dr. Jackson said could be helpful with developing a new treatment for the virus.

“It may be that some of those naturally occurring antibodies are relatively protective for patients in terms of getting COVID-19, and if that’s the case then that might point us in the direction of developing antibodies that we can give to people as a therapeutic or preventative measure,” said Jackson. “It’s certainly something worth looking at in case it leads us in the direction of a therapy that we could actually develop.”

While people with type O blood seem to be less vulnerable to COVID-19, experts said more research is needed to better understand why. No matter what a person’s blood type is, doctors are urging the public not to let their guard down and help in slowing the spread of the virus.