Are people with blood type A more vulnerable to contracting the new coronavirus?

According to a recent study, people with type A blood may have a higher chance of contracting the new coronavirus. The study, which can be viewed on medRxiv, was carried out by a group of 19 Chinese researchers and examined 2 173 patients with Covid-19. The patients were from hospitals in Wuhan and Shenzhen.

The researchers then analysed the distribution of blood types in the normal population in each area and compared it to their sample of patients with the virus, also in each area, reports Science Alert. The authors concluded:

“People with blood group A have a significantly higher risk for acquiring Covid-19 compared with non-A blood groups,” their report reads, adding: “Whereas blood group O has a significantly lower risk for the infection compared with non-O blood groups."

How reliable is this information?

The team mentions that their study is a pre-print and has not been peer-reviewed. This means it has yet to be evaluated and should therefore not be used as clinical guidance.

According to the study, Wuhan’s normal population has the following blood type distribution:

  • 31% type A
  • 24% type B
  • 9% type AB
  • 34% type O

By comparison, those with the virus were:

  • 38% type A
  • 26% type B
  • 10% type AB
  • 25% type O

To put it into further context, the study also states that 85 out of 206 patients who died of Covid-19 in Wuhan had blood type A – this was 63% more than people with blood type O who died.

The preliminary study notes that similar differences were observed in Shenzhen and found that age and gender do not play a major role. 

Lead researcher Wang Xinghuan wrote: “It might be helpful to introduce ABO blood typing in both patients and medical personnel as a routine part of the management of SAR-CoV-2 (the Covid-19 virus) and other coronavirus infections to help define the management options and assess risk exposure levels of people.”

According to the study, there could be a link between people with blood type A’s higher susceptibility of contracting the Covid-19 virus and the presence of natural antibodies in the blood, but added that more studies were needed to prove the link.

The comparison above therefore points out that although there are slight variations in figures between the normal population and those with Covid-19, it’s premature to conclude that people with blood type O are entirely immune to contracting the virus, nor does it mean that everyone who contracts the virus will be type A.

However, the researchers urged governments and medical professionals to consider this factor when treating infected patients.

*As of 25 March 2020, there are 709 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus in South Africa. Find all the updates here.

Image: Ekachai Lohacamonchai/Getty

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