Can gut bacteria be used to convert blood types?

Blood shortages may soon be a thing of the past. Newly discovered bacterial enzymes in the human gut have been used to turn type A blood into the universally accepted type O much faster than previous methods

Image Source: Google
Image Source: Google

Our gut bacteria may have helped scientists discover a way to create a universal blood type. If their findings go on to pass all tests of safety and efficacy, patients around the world could benefit from an increased supply of compatible blood.

The new research was presented at the 256th National Meeting and Exposition of the American Chemical Society in Boston, Massachusetts on Aug. 21.

Having the ability to donate blood to one another, especially in life-threatening situations, is a fortunate thing. But finding a compatible blood type is one of the challenges faced in the process of transfusion.

As you may know, our blood can be classified as one of these four combinations of antigens: type A, type B, type AB, or type O. When a person receives blood of an incompatible type, their body could undergo a lot of damage. Sickness may occur, organs may shut down, and in the worst cases, the patient may even die.

Everyone can receive O blood, which is considered the universal donor – but people who have the O type themselves cannot receive blood with A and/or B antigens. Meanwhile, people with AB blood are regarded as universal recipients, which means they will not face any adverse reactions no matter what type they receive.

Now, imagine a world where all supplies of donated blood fall under one universal type, freeing us of these complications. Scientists at the University of British Columbia (UBC) in Canada believe they are a step closer to making this world a reality.

“We have been particularly interested in enzymes that allow us to remove the A or B antigens from red blood cells,” said Dr Stephen Withers, a professor at UBC. “If you can remove those antigens, which are just simple sugars, then you can convert A or B to O blood.”

In their study, Withers and his colleagues were able to identify enzymes in the human gut which could help transform blood types with A and B antigens into type O. While scientists have found such enzymes before, they have not been as efficient or economical as this one.

Since tests have only been conducted in the laboratory so far, further examination is required to confirm these findings. With the help of the Canadian Blood Service, the team will test more blood samples before moving onto more large-scale testing by performing trials of the treatment in the clinic.

“I am optimistic that we have a very interesting candidate to adjust donated blood to a common type,” Withers said. “Of course, it will have to go through lots of clinical trials to make sure that it doesn’t have any adverse consequences, but it is looking very promising.”

Source: Medical Daily