Are people with particular blood types more susceptible to infectious diseases such as malaria?

Madhav Dhodapkar, M.B.B.S., is the chief of hematology at Yale School of Medicine, and also a professor of immunobiology. He answers: 

“Yes. There is some suggestion that the nature of blood type may impact the susceptibility to malaria. The findings emanate from studies based on epidemiology (mostly from Africa), as well as studies in the laboratory.

“While the underlying mechanism is still under study, it appears that patients with a blood group called ‘type O’ might be relatively protected (compared to those with other types such as A, B or AB) from severe infections caused by a type of malaria called ‘plasmodium falciparum.’

“It has been suggested that the blood group antigen may play a role in binding of parasites to red cells. However, as mentioned earlier, this is an area of ongoing investigation.”

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