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Approved Research

Blood type genetic variation and its relationship to COVID-19 susceptibility

Principal Investigator: Dr Debbie Nickerson
Approved Research ID: 56473
Approval date: October 28th 2020

Lay summary

Recent studies of COVID-19 patients have discovered a link between a person's ABO blood type and their susceptibility to COVID-19 infection. Studies show a higher proportion of blood type A in COVID-19 positive patients compared to blood type O, suggesting a person's blood type can influence how susceptible they are to COVID-19. However, studies have not assessed all ABO blood types. For example,  the B blood type hasn't been investigated  in detail and there is a common subtype of the A blood type (A2 subtype) which has not been investigated. Studies have also not investigated the contribution of other blood groups (a total of 33 blood groups are known) to COVID-19 susceptibility, even though other blood groups are known to alter the expression of ABO in a person's bodily fluids.  In this proposal, we plan address these limitations by studying in greater detail an individual ABO blood type information (including 'subtypes') and expanding analyses to include all other known blood groups. We will accomplish this objective by using a person's genetic information to assess their blood type rather than the standard, protein-based test.

Blood group systems are inherited molecules that are encoded in our genetic material. Therefore, it is possible to determine a person's blood type by studying their genetic information. In fact, using genetic data enables investigation of blood groups for which standard (protein-based) typing reagents are unavailable, including blood groups which alter the presence or absence of ABO in a person's bodily fluids. Our plan is to assess individual blood type information using the UK BioBank genetic dataset and relate that information to COVID-19 infection.  This will provide greater detail regarding a person's blood type and  further clarify how a blood type contributes to differences in COVID-19 susceptibility.