02 April 2007

Blood Shortage Solution?

Blood is a precious commodity. During times of accidents and having diseases like aplastic anemia, hemophilia, and dengue hemorrhagic fever, there arises a great need for blood donations. The usual scene is that relatives and friends are asked to donate, and if that isn't enough, desperate relatives usually ask help from the Red Cross, or ask help thru public service programs on TV and radio.

In the Philippines, there used to be many commercial blood banks before. If you have the money, then you can buy the blood type you need. But when news broke out of people contracting diseases like hepatitis and AIDS from such practices because said blood banks had this alleged practice of not having a tough quality control of their products, the government moved to put a stop to commercial selling of blood.

Hence, the practice now is to get your blood from the blood banks of the hospital where you are presently confined in. No more buying of blood. Local hospital blood banks have reserved stocks of every blood type, and in cases of emergency, you get your blood there. But the same problem arises when there is great demand for a certain blood type. Shortages occur. Patient relatives are therefore asked to replace the number of blood units provided by the blood bank. You pay for the facilities used in extracting blood from your coterie of recruited donors.

Most of the time --- and I speak from experience --- you only have a finite number of friends and good samaritans who can donate. Blood shortage is a reality that will forever haunt those patients with a chronic need for it. That's why it is good news to hear that scientists have found a way to solve this problem:
Scientists have developed a way of converting one blood group into another. The technique potentially enables blood from groups A, B and AB to be converted into group O, which can be safely transplanted into any patient.

The blood cells of people with group A and B blood contain one of two different sugar molecules --- known as antigens --- which can trigger an immune system response. People with AB blood have both types of molecule, while those with group O blood have neither. People produce antibodies against the antigens they lack. This means groups A, B and AB can only be given to patients with compatible blood, while O can be given to anyone.

The new technique works by using bacterial enzymes to cut sugar molecules from the surface of red blood cells.

[BBC News, 2 April 2007]

The downside of this good news is that the scientists have only developed a process for removing the A and B antigens on red blood cells. Other antigens like the Rh D antigen (which can also trigger an immune response on incompatible transfusions), can not be removed by their enzymatic process. Therefore, Asians, who are predominantly Rh D positive --- only 1 percent of Asians are Rh D negative --- will still have to wait for a better process to solve their blood transfusion shortage.

8 reactions:

rolly said...

Definitely good news.

I have been asked a few times to donate blood by friends because a relative is ill. (It seems like they just collect blood regardless of the type, these days and store it some place) I always decline knowing I can't because I am diabetic. Of course, this is just speculation on my part for I have not confirmed this. What say you?

watson said...

Uy good news ito Doc! I was pre-empting in my mind that your good news is that they have found a substitute for blood already.

I have felt the blood shortage too because there has been at least once in a month when I am alerted to officemates or friends asking for blood donors. Hopefully this will somewhat make blood more available.

Tony said...

This is only my opinion but from the literature I have read, there will always be a blood shortage. Most of the surgeons have not been educated on the process of conserving blood. Most times, especially in elective surgeries, a patient can go without a transfusion. Using techniques such as pre-admission medication to boost red blood cell counts and using cell saving in the O.R. Other processes to avoid transfusions can be used to preserve the blood for those patients that really need a transfusion.

Dr. Emer said...

TITO ROLLY: I see no reason why you can't give blood. Hospital blood banks have strict screening methods when it comes to blood donation. If you pass their criteria, then you can donate. The crucial contraindications usually involve having infectious diseases, history of drug abuse, and having a high-risk sexual behavior. Knowing you, I do not think you fall in any of the said categories.

WATSON: But we are mostly Rh positives, so it is still premature to celebrate.

TONY: Pre-admission meds to boost RBC counts will be difficult to set up in a third world country. But I agree with you that methods to conserve blood should be explored.

Stephen said...

I have type A+ (i studied hard before my blood test). Is that "A" group, and therefore can be converted? If so, it's really good news, as i understand that A+ is really common.

The original article didn't quite make it to my exact level of incompetence.

jey-aiy said...

this is good news. i used to handle the rare blood registry when i was still with the red cross, and it's really hard to find rare blood, the ones where you have all other blood antiges such as Kidd, Duffy, and Lewis. we don't have an established registry for these blood types. it's still in the works so we had to import blood from new zealand and finland. sosyal, di ba? and i'm still hoping that there will be a national blood council minus all the politicking.

The Patient Connection said...

Take part in an online discussion on haemophilia


We at The Patient Connection are currently running a research blog or online discussion on the subject of haemophilia

In particular we are interested in haemophilia as a genetic/family condition and any thoughts you might have about gene therapy

Apart from that we would love it if you could share your story or just post useful resources for fellow sufferers.

If you would like to join us please go to


Thanks and remember your opinion counts

Best wishes


PS The link will give you an option to join our formal research community and participate in research into the opinions of the haemophilia community later on in the year.

Anonymous said...

I am taking this chance that someone might see this post. A relative is in dire need to blood type O- (RH negative). If you can donate please call me Joey Carlotta 0917892080. Please pass this on if you know of others how might be of help. Thank you and God Bless.