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Study Suggests People With Blood Type A Could Be More Vulnerable To COVID-19

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clockMar 18 2020, 17:35 UTC

The study claims that those with blood type A were more "vulnerable" to infection, whilst those with blood type O had a "significantly lower risk" of getting COVID-19. Yuri2010/ Shutterstock

A lot of scientific study is happening around the globe to help combat the coronavirus pandemic. From vaccine tests to drug trials, and even understanding what a healthy immune response to COVID-19 looks like. In a yet to be peer-reviewed study on MedRxiv, scientists have now claimed that people with blood type A may be more vulnerable to coronavirus, compared to other blood types.

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The study group was comprised of 2,173 patients in China who had been diagnosed with COVID-19 from three hospitals; two in Wuhan, where the virus originated, and one in Shenzhen. Researchers looked at the blood group distribution of these patients, and compared that to a group of healthy people from the same regions.

In the Wuhan Area, whilst around 32 percent of this “healthy” group had type A blood, of the 1,775 patients from the Wuhan Jinyintan Hospital included in the study, 38 percent had that blood type. In comparison, type O blood, found to be the most prevalent blood type in the healthy group at approximately 34 percent, was only present in 25.8 percent of the diagnosed patients at the Wuhan Hospital.

Led by Wang Xinghuan of the Zhongnan Hospital at Wuhan University, the preliminary study also included 206 patients who had died in Wuhan. Of these, 85 had blood type A, equivalent to 41 percent of all deaths. 

The authors of the study note that their initial findings fit with previous studies. Susceptibility to the SARS-CoV infection, originating in 2002, was also reportedly found to be differentiated by the ABO blood group systems in Hong Kong. In concluding their study the authors suggested that “SARS-CoV-2-infected patients with blood group A might need to receive more vigilant surveillance and aggressive treatment.”

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However, it's important to note the study is yet to be peer-reviewed and though it discovered a correlation, it did not explore causation, so experts are warning not to worry if you have type A blood, nor be less vigilant if you are type O. 

Gao Yungdai, a researcher with the State Key Laboratory of Experimental Haematology in Tianjin, who was not involved in the study, expressed her concerns about the limitations of the study, reports the South China Morning Post.

Firstly, she noted that the 2,000 people sample size was comparatively small given that the number of confirmed cases is currently over 100 times that figure. Gao also pointed out that the study did not provide a clear explanation of the underlying mechanism between the virus and the different blood groups.

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“[The study] may be helpful to medical professionals, but ordinary citizens should not take the statistics too seriously,” Gao told South China Morning Post.

“If you are type A, there is no need to panic. It does not mean you will be infected 100 percent,” she continued. “If you are type O, it does not mean you are absolutely safe, either. You still need to wash your hands and follow the guidelines issued by authorities.”

The researchers also recognized the limitations of their study, and emphasized that “one should be cautious to use this study to guide clinical practice at this time.” Going forward, they encourage further study into some of the areas identified earlier.

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