Everyone inherits a certain blood type – A, B, AB, or O – which also determines the type of blood you can receive via transfusion. Inject a recipient with an incompatible type, and the reaction can be fatal. The difference between the various blood types centers on the sugar molecules, or blood antigens, on the surface of the red blood cells.
If a person with blood A receives a type B transfusion, their immune system will attack the foreign blood cells and put the patient’s life in danger. But because type O doesn’t have any antigens, anyone can receive it, making it extremely valuable and in short supply.
The good news is that in a recent groundbreaking study, researchers analyzing bacteria in the human gut have discovered that microbes there produce two enzymes that efficiently strip common type A of its antigens, transforming it into type O. The team plans to conduct further studies to ensure the process removes all the blood antigens.
If it pans out, the specialists suggest it could revolutionize blood donation and transfusion, potentially doubling the amount of universal donor blood available.