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A worldwide search is on to find blood donor matches for two-year-old Zainab Mughal, from Tallahassee, Florida, who has childhood cancer neuroblastoma and an extremely rare blood type.  Image courtesy: OneBlood
A worldwide search is on to find blood donor matches for two-year-old Zainab Mughal, from Tallahassee, Florida, who has childhood cancer neuroblastoma and an extremely rare blood type.
Image courtesy: OneBlood

Zainab Mughal has some of the rarest blood in the world. She’s been battling cancer, and to survive, she’s likely to need blood transfusions from seven to 10 donors who haven’t all been found.

That’s because they are as rare as she is.

Only people of Pakistani, Indian or Iranian descent who have the same type of blood as Zainab, whose family hails from Pakistan, are likely to match with her. Less than 4% of people in those populations may match, according to OneBlood, a South Florida non-profit organization that’s aiding in a global search to identify and recruit donors for the young girl.

“We have a zero per cent chance of finding compatible blood for this little girl if we look in pretty much any other ethnic group,” Frieda Bright, a lab manager with OneBlood, said in a video provided by the organization. “We are searching the world to try to find blood for this little girl.”

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Finding compatible donors is extremely difficult Image courtesy: OneBlood

OneBlood says that ideally, it will be able to locate donors of these ethnicities who live in the United States.

Campaigners say more than 1,000 people have been tested, but only three so far have the blood she needs.

Doctors say seven to 10 donors will be needed over the course of her cancer treatment.

Earlier this year, Zainab was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, an aggressive and rare form of cancer that mostly affects babies and young children.

Blood transfusions will be needed for the duration of her treatment, but Zainab’s blood is “extremely rare” because it is missing an antigen – ‘Indian B’ – that most people carry in their red blood cells, says OneBlood, a non-profit blood centre that’s spearheading the search for donors.

The only donors likely to be a match are people of exclusively Pakistani, Indian or Iranian descent with blood type O or A, OneBlood says.

But even within these populations, fewer than 4% of people will be missing the Indian B antigen.

Zainab’s parents and family members have had their blood tested but sadly none are compatible.

Her father, Raheel Mughal, said: “She was first diagnosed about two months ago but this thing was growing in her stomach for almost 10 months.

“We were all crying; this was the worst thing we were expecting.”

“They found out that she had a very rare blood type,” he added.

“That’s when it became more of an alert, but luckily thank God they have found a few donors so so far she has been going through her normal treatment.

“We will definitely need more blood.”

“My daughter’s life very much depends on the blood. It’s a humble request, and I request it from my heart, so please donate blood for my daughter.”

A Not-for-profit organisation named OneBlood has been working closely with Zainab’s family, other blood centres and the American Rare Donor Program (ARDP) to help find a match.

So far, three matching donors have been found, including one ARDP tracked down near London and two from the United States.

It marks the first time that OneBlood has ever received an international donor for a local patient.

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the donors must have “A” or “O” type blood and be Pakistani, Indian or Iranian; and that even within these ethnic groups, fewer than 4 percent of people have the genetic variation Image courtesy: OneBlood

To support her long-term blood needs, Zainab’s family need to find between seven to 10 compatible donors.

So far, more than 1,000 local donations, as well as donations from other parts of the country, have been tested but sadly no additional matches have been found.

Anyone who thinks they could be a match for Zainab or wants to help is urged to visit www.oneblood.org/zainab

Neuroblastoma is a rare type of cancer that mostly affects babies and young children.

It develops from specialised nerve cells, known as neuroblasts, left behind from a baby’s development in the womb.

The cancer most commonly occurs in one of the adrenal glands situated above the kidneys, or in the nerve tissue that runs alongside the spinal cord in the neck, chest, tummy or pelvis.

It can spread to other organs such as the bone marrow, bone, lymph nodes, liver and skin.

The cause of neuroblastoma is unknown.

Source: The Independent

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