Can Certain Blood Types Cause Increased Risk For COVID-19?

May 29, 2020

Clinical Contributors to this Story

David Greenberg, M.D. contributes to topics such as Hematology-Oncology.

Could your blood type put you at risk of becoming infected with the novel coronavirus (COVID-19)? Two recent studies suggest that certain blood types may somewhat increase or decrease risk. However, both studies were released before going through the peer-review process to verify the validity of the research. For now, experts recommend that people consider the study results with caution.

“It’s important to know that while early studies seem to indicate that certain blood types are more at risk to COVID-19, they haven’t been peer-reviewed or proven yet and there’s still a lot we’re learning about this virus,” says David Greenberg, M.D., a hematology-oncology specialist at Hackensack Meridian Jersey Shore University Medical Center.

There’s also thought among experts that the antibodies associated with different blood types interact uniquely with certain receptors in our body, specifically ACE2 (angiotensin-converting enzyme 2) receptors which are needed for the virus to enter cells. Early studies on the SARS-associated coronavirus in 2008 showed that certain blood types may be a factor in the risk of infection based on the ACE2 interaction. However, Dr. Greenberg cautions that the theory has yet to be proven.

Here’s what you should know about blood types and COVID-19 risk:

Where were the studies done?

The first study was conducted in China. It looked at the blood types of more than 2,000 patients with COVID-19 in three hospitals located in two cities, Wuhan and Shenzhen. The researchers compared the blood types of patients with COVID-19 to the normal distribution of blood types in local populations.

The second study was conducted in New York City. It looked at the blood types of more than 1,500 patients, including more than 680 patients who tested positive for COVID-19, in one hospital, the New York Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center. The researchers compared the distribution of blood types among COVID-19-positive patients to the normal distribution of blood types among patients who were treated in the hospital between 2011 and 2019.

Which blood type poses a higher risk?

The Chinese researchers found that people with type A blood had a higher risk of getting COVID-19 than people with other blood types. Their work showed that the percentage of COVID-19 patients with type A blood was significantly higher than healthy people in the general population with type A blood.

The New York researchers also found that people with type A blood had increased odds of testing positive for COVID-19, although they didn’t find a significant difference in the proportion of blood types among patients with COVID-19 and the general population.

Which blood type poses a lower risk?

The Chinese researchers found that people with type O blood had a lower risk of becoming infected with COVID-19 than people with other blood types. Their study showed that the percentage of COVID-19 patients with type O blood was significantly lower than healthy people in the general population with type O blood.

The New York researchers also found that people with type O blood had decreased odds of testing positive for COVID-19, although they didn’t find a significant difference in the proportion of blood types among patients with COVID-19 and the general population.

Are there additional risks for people with pre-existing conditions?

Older adults and people with certain chronic health conditions may be at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19, regardless of blood type. These conditions include:

  • advanced age (65 and older)
  • heart disease
  • chronic lung disease
  • diabetes
  • asthma
  • HIV
  • liver disease
  • obesity
  • being immunocompromised (including cancer patients and organ transplant recipients)

“For anyone currently facing a medical condition, continuing your care, along with social distancing, good hand hygiene and other protective measures are critical, no matter what your blood type may be,” says Dr. Greenberg.

What should people do if they are at higher risk?

You can’t do anything to change your blood type, but you can control your behavior. Taking steps to limit your exposure to the virus may lower your chances of becoming ill.

“Everyone should be doing what they can to reduce their exposure to this virus,” says Dr. Greenberg. “That means following all local guidelines when out in public like wearing masks and maintain social distancing.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends these guidelines to protect yourself and others from COVID-19:

  • wash your hands often
  • avoid touching your face
  • stay at least 6 feet away from people outside of your home
  • stay at least 6 feet away from sick people within your home
  • wear a cloth face covering when you’re out in public
  • cover coughs and sneezes with your elbow or a tissue
  • clean and disinfect surfaces daily that are touched often

Next Steps & Resources:

The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.