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Gut Microbes & Universal Blood

August 22, 2018

Can gut bacteria enzymes make everyone a universal blood donor?


Donated blood. (Pixabay)

Donated blood. (Pixabay)


Gut microbe enzymes make donated blood more useful. Coming up on Science Update.

Creating universal blood. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

During emergencies, blood donations are urgently needed. But only type O blood can be given to everyone who needs it, regardless of their blood type. Now, researchers report using enzymes from human gut bacteria to efficiently convert type A and B blood into type O blood for universal use. University of British Columbia biochemist Stephen Withers says the immune system identifies and destroys foreign blood cells based on sugar molecules present on their surface. But the gut enzymes strip sugars from the surface of type A and B blood cells.

STEPHEN G. WITHERS (University of British Columbia):

If you could cut the A sugar or the B sugar off of red blood cells, you should be able to convert them to the structure present on O type blood.


Withers says the enzymes normally harvest sugars from the gut wall to feed their bacteria. His team presented the research at a meeting of the American Chemical Society. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.


Story by Susanne Bard

The Centre for Blood Research at the University of British Columbia collaborated on this research.