Ethnicity Helps Better Match Donors

Ethnicity Helps Better Match Donors
0 February 16, 2018

MEDIC Regional Blood Center is gathering new information from each of its donors in order to best match the right donor to the right recipient.

Beginning in February, all donors will be asked to voluntarily provide information about their ethnicity.

This information is critically important to help MEDIC better manage its blood supply and get the right type of blood to the right hospital.

Most donors know their basic blood type (e.g. O+, B+, A-), but most people don’t know about the hundreds of other proteins that can be found on their blood cells. For most people, these proteins don’t mean anything. There are many blood recipients in East Tennessee who receive blood regularly for blood diseases like sickle cell anemia. For these patients, these proteins matter. When they are exposed to one of the proteins that their body doesn’t recognize, they produce an antibody. This antibody sits quietly until that person receives another transfusion. If they receive blood with the same protein, their body — equipped with the new antibody — may attack the blood causing a transfusion reaction.

For these patients, MEDIC has a special group of scientists who specially test blood going to someone who has received multiple transfusions. The best blood for these patients is blood that is as identical to theirs as possible.

Sometimes these scientists have to test dozens of units of blood to find one that is as close as possible to what is needed. That process is very expensive and takes a lot of time.

One way to speed up the process is by knowing the ethnicity of the blood donor. If there is a patient undergoing multiple transfusions who is of Asian decent, the best blood donor for them is likely someone else of Asian decent. Just as many physical characteristics of a certain ethnic group are similar, so are the characteristics of their blood.

MEDIC is asking donors to provide their ethnicity to better help our process.

However, this information is voluntarily and donors may still give blood without providing this information.