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All humans can be grouped into ABO and Rh+/- blood groups (at a minimum). Is there any advantage at all to one group or the other? This article hints that there are some pathogens that display a preference to a blood type (for example Schistosomiasis apparently being more common in people with blood group A, although it could be that more people have type A in the areas that the parasite inhabits). Is there any literature out there to support or refute this claim or provide similar examples?

Beyond ABO-Rh, is there any advantage or disadvantage (excluding the obvious difficulties in finding a donor after accident/trauma) in the 30 other blood type suffixes recognised by the International Society of Blood Transfusions (ISBT)?

I'd imagine not (or at least very minimal) but it would be interesting to find out if anyone knows more.

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Do you mean advantage in an evolutionary context? –  Poshpaws Jan 19 '12 at 6:33
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That reminds me about the sickle-cell disease where the malformed red blood cells show much higher resistance against the malaria plasmodium. –  Alexander Galkin Jan 19 '12 at 9:56
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Sickle cell is considered autosomal regressive in classical genetics, but this malarial resistance only applies to the heterozygous case (in which blood cells are also normal). The altered cell morphology occurs only in the homozygous recessive genotype. –  leonardo Mar 3 '12 at 4:40
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4 Answers 4

up vote 15 down vote accepted

I've been doing a little more digging myself and have found a couple of other advantages:

Risk of Venous-thromboembolism (deep vein thrombosis/pulmonary embolism (1)). Blood group O individuals are at lower risk of the above conditions due to reduced levels of von Willebrand factor(2) and factor VIII clotting factors.

Cholera Infection Susceptibility & Severity. Individuals with blood group O are less susceptible to some strains of cholera (O1) but are more likely to suffer severe effects from the disease if infected (3).

E. coli Infection Susceptibility & Severity. A study in Scotland indicated that those with the O blood group showed higher than expected infection rates with E. coli O157 and significantly higher fatality rates (78.5% of fatalities had blood group O).(4)

Peptic Ulcers caused by Heliobacter pylori which can also lead to gastric cancer. Group O are again more susceptible to strains of H. pylori (5).

Whether blood group antigens are displayed on other body cells or not has been linked to increased or decreased susceptibility to many diseases, notably norrovirus and HIV. This is fully explained in the article that I was above summarising - "The relationship between blood group and disease" in addition to extended descriptions of the other two answers.

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The less antigens a woman (or in fact a female of any species close enough to humans for this phenomenon) has, the higher are the risks of triggering an immune reaction during her pregnancy, if the child has those antigens.
The Rhesus incompatibility is probably the most common case of this problem.

One could thus assume that in populations that are genetically diverse in respect to blood groups, absence of antigens has negative effects on reproduction (unless countered by medicine).

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For searching purposes: the general condition in neonates (whether brought about by ABO, Rhesus, or other factors) is termed hemolytic disease of the newborn or erythroblastosis fetalis. –  user132 Jan 19 '12 at 9:30
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These two papers study whether there is a relationship between the ABO blood type of a person and his/her attractiveness to mosquitoes. It was found that people with type O blood are more likely to be bitten than people with other blood types. Additionally, the relationship between blood type and the secretion of oligosaccharides from the skin had any effect on attractiveness to mosquitoes. It was found that type O secretors are very attractive to mosquitoes compared to type O nonsecretors and type A nonsecretors.

On the flip side, type A individuals are more susceptible to infection by plasmodia (i.e., malaria).

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http://books.google.com/books?id=YRcAVvmE6eMC&pg=PA40&lpg=PA40&dq=type+o+blood+are+more+resistant+to+syphilis&source=bl&ots=o7PjHip_kh&sig=m3q9yz-tSu4TlxL37sAaYthKIEM&hl=en&sa=X&ei=-eVhUufrOo-K9ASZ3IEY&ved=0CC4Q6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=type%20o%20blood%20are%20more%20resistant%20to%20syphilis&f=false " people with blood type O are more resistant to malaria and syphilis than those with the A and/or B proteins. " fromm the ENCYCLOPEDIA OF EVILUTION , STANLEY A RICE PG 40

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Can you provide references to the original research showing that? I cannot really find any on Pubmed. What I found is that individuals of Duffy- blood group are resistent to Plasmodium vivax invasion (Langhi and Bordin, Hematology 2006), but I cannot find anything on AB0. Also see: ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK2271 –  nico Oct 19 '13 at 7:48
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