Woman giving blood
With more than 360 variations of blood linked to a person's ethnicity there's a plea for donations, Image by HANDOUT/RED CROSS LIFEBLOOD
  • health

Population shift prompts blood donor plea

Rachael Ward March 11, 2024

There’s a fresh plea for Australians who come from a variety of backgrounds to roll up their sleeves and donate blood after a study highlighted a shift in the nation’s blood types.

There are four commonly known blood types – A, AB, B and O.

But it’s less well known that there are more than 360 variations of those which can be linked to a person’s ethnicity, Australian Red Cross Lifeblood Senior Research Fellow Dr Rena Hirani said.

“Your blood types are determined by genetics and influenced by your heritage, similarly to how skin and hair colour can be as well,” Dr Hirani told AAP.

Dr Hirani recently led a study of almost half a million people published in the peer-reviewed journal Pathology, which highlighted a shift in those lesser-known blood type variations.

It found a jump in variations commonly found in India, parts of Asia and the Middle East.

“We’ve seen higher immigration coming from countries such as China, India, Nepal and Pakistan in the last few years and this is actually linked with the change in blood groups that we’ve seen,” she explained.

The research also revealed two in-demand blood types are commonly found in donors who were born in countries such as New Zealand, Samoa, Zimbabwe, Sudan, Kenya, Egypt, Iran, Syria, and the Philippines.

Dr Hirani said it’s important for anyone to give blood regardless of their background, but people with certain blood types have also been asked to come forward.

“If you are of Polynesian descent, from Southeast Asia, from India or from the Middle East, it would be fabulous if you consider donating,” she said.

If blood types don’t match up then there can be serious consequences, Dr Hirani said.

“If both types don’t match up you can cause some conditions to happen where your red blood cells actually attack each other and destroy the red blood cells that you are transfusing,” she explained.

“This can actually cause anaemia, disability or even death.”

Anyone thinking about donating blood can check their eligibility on the Red Cross Lifeblood website.