08 March 2021

New evidence has emerged about how people with blood group A might be at increased risk of contracting COVID-19.

A US study published in the journal Blood Advances is one of the first laboratory studies to suggest that SARS-CoV-2 is particularly attracted to the blood group A antigen found on respiratory cells.

In the study, researchers from Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, USA, assessed the affinity of the receptor binding domain (RBD) on the surface of the SARS-CoV-2 virus for different blood group molecules.

They assessed synthetic blood group antigens A, B, and O on respiratory and red blood cells, analysing how the SARS-CoV-2 RBD interacted with each unique antigen type.

The found RBD had a strong preference for binding to blood group A found on respiratory cells, but not a preference for blood group A red blood cells, or other blood groups found on respiratory or red cells.

The researchers say the capacity of the RBD to recognise and attach to the blood type A antigen found in the lungs of blood type A individuals may provide insight into the potential link between blood group A and COVID-19 infection.

Study leader Dr Sean Stowell, of Brigham and Women's Hospital, said: “It is interesting that the viral RBD only really prefers the type of blood group A antigens that are on respiratory cells, which are presumably how the virus is entering most patients and infecting them.

“Blood type is a challenge because it is inherited and not something we can change. But if we can better understand how the virus interacts with blood groups in people, we may be able to find new medicines or methods of prevention.”

The team found similar results when they looked to see if RBD had a similar binding preference in SARS-CoV, the virus that causes severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).

However, Dr Stowell and his team emphasised their findings alone could not fully describe or predict how coronaviruses would affect patients of various blood types.

The results add to research from last year which suggested that people with A and AB blood groups were more likely to catch SARS-CoV-2, and develop more severe COVID-19.


Wu SC, Arthur CM, Wang J, Verkerke H, Josephson CD, Kalman D, Roback JD, Cummings RD, Stowell SR. (2021) “The SARS-CoV-2 receptor-binding domain preferentially recognizes blood group A.” Blood Advances, doi: 10.1182/bloodadvances.2020003259


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