Rare and Uncommon Blood Types Beyond the Eight Basic Blood Types

Everything You Need to Know About Inherited Genetic Differences

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Having a rare or uncommon blood type doesn’t mean your blood is better or worse—it’s just a genetically different. But it DOES make you extremely special!

You’ve likely heard of the common blood groups: A, B, AB and O. But, did you know that besides these common blood groups, there are more than 35 other blood groups and more than 600 other known antigens? The unique mix of proteins and sugars (antigens) present on your red cells, which you inherited from your biological parents, determines your extended blood type and whether you fall into one of these rare and uncommon blood groups.

One of these uncommon blood types is the Ro blood type, which is invaluable for patients with sickle cell disease. 

The Rarest and Most Uncommon Blood Types By Ethnicity

Oftentimes, patients experience the best outcomes when they receive lifesaving donations from individuals of similar ethnic backgrounds. When you donate, your blood donation will be put to good use, likely saving someone else from your community in need of a lifesaving transfusion.    

So, what’s your blood type? Don’t know? That’s OK, as 66% of Americans don’t know their blood type! Simply donate blood and we will tell you after your first successful donation! To learn more about the eight blood types, click below. 

Right now, a local hospital patient who shares your rare or uncommon blood type is counting on your donation.

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Blood and Diversity: Why is an ethnically diverse blood supply important?

Matching matters. Diversity in donation is important for improved patient outcomes, as rare and uncommon blood types are often found in similar ethnic populations.

  • Blood type is inherited; therefore, a compatible donor is often someone of a similar ethnic background.
  • Sickle cell patients may require chronic blood transfusions to treat their disease, for example. Since 44% of African Americans also have Ro blood, providing matched Ro blood to sickle cell patients may provide a safer blood transfusion.
  • Increasing diversity in our donors improves the chances of finding a match and may be the difference between life and death for a patient in need.

In short, a more ethnically diverse donor base will save more lives. Be a diversity champion and donate blood today. 

Donor Disparity and the Need for Diverse Blood Donors

Overall, 62% of the general population in the U.S. are eligible to donate blood, but less than 3% do so annually, and these donors are disproportionately white. Black, indigenous, people of color (BIPOC) blood donations have historically been low in the U.S. According to a 2011 study from Emory University, only 16% of Black individuals donate blood.

Matching Donor Diversity with Patient Diversity Essential to Save Lives

Quintissa Peake is one of more than 100,000 Americans with sickle cell disease, which causes red blood cells to become hard and sticky, die early and clog blood vessels. Serious health complications such as infection, acute chest syndrome and stroke can arise. Minorities are particularly affected by the genetic disease, and one in three African American blood donors is a match for a patient with sickle cell disease. For most with SCD, one of the most effective treatments are blood transfusions. 

Quintissa's Story Quintissa's Story
Atianna Berryman is considered a rare blood donor because her blood is negative for high-incidence antigens.

Identifying Rare Blood Donors is Important

A donor is considered a rare blood donor if their blood type is present in less than one in every 1,000 people, but Atianna Berryman's blood is considerably more unique. She is negative for Hy and Jo(a), high-incidence antigens that are present in 100% of the non-black population and greater than 99% of the black population.

With one in four people in need of a transfusion in their lifetime, even a rare blood group like Atianna’s will likely require help at some point. Collecting and supplying blood from the eight main blood types is hard enough, but when someone can only receive blood from so few, proactivity could be the difference between life and death.

If your blood is identified as rare like Atianna's, Kentucky Blood Center will enroll you in the American Rare Donor Program, so that other blood centers and hospitals around the country can contact you or KBC about possible donations for patients who need your rare blood. For more information on the American Rare Donor Program, visit here!

Atianna's Story Atianna's Story