Blood Group Linked to Gastric Bugs

June 20, 2012 at 11:32 am

By Billie Rubin, Hemoglobin’s Catabolic Cousin, reporting from the labs of Stanford Blood Center

It seems a rotavirus strain is using the sugar at the end of the type-A molecule as a doorway to the inside of cells. “A sugar molecule linked to type-A blood helps the rotavirus strain invade cells in the gastrointestinal tract,” a study has shown. “The virus is the leading cause of severe dehydration and diarrhea in infants, and causes an estimated 500,000 deaths worldwide each year. Specific blood group molecules are already known to promote infection by the stomach bug Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) and norovirus.”

Researchers found that an antibody targeting the type-A molecule blocked infection by the virus. “We never expected this,” said study leader Dr. Venkataram Prasad, from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas. “Do other viruses use these blood group antigens as a door to enter the cell? The findings raise questions about why humans have different blood groups,” said Professor Prasad, “One possibility may be that they evolved as a result of invasions by viruses or bugs.” Type-A was the original “wild type“. So, evolve into type-B and avoid rotavirus…makes sense.