Toddler With Cancer Searching For Donor With Rare Blood Type

Two-year-old Zainab has one of the rarest blood types in the world.

A man getting blood drawn
Antonio_Corigliano / Pixabay

Two-year-old Zainab has one of the rarest blood types in the world.

A 2-year-old girl in need of a blood transfusion has one of the rarest blood types in the world, NBC News is reporting. Zainab, who lives in Florida, has been diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a form of cancer that mainly affects children. A non-profit organization called OneBlood is helping search for potential donors after it was discovered that Zainab has a rare blood type. According to the organization, Zainab will need blood transfusions “for the foreseeable future” as part of her treatment. However, she is only able to receive a very specific blood type.

Zainab is missing an antigen called “Indian B.” She cannot receive any blood that has this antigen as her body will automatically reject it. Unfortunately, the amount of people around the world who are also missing this antigen is very small. A person who potentially has the same blood type would have to be of Pakistani, Indian, or Iranian descent “exclusively,” meaning that the donor’s parents would have to also be of 100 percent Pakistani, Indian or Iranian descent. The list of potential donors gets smaller still, as even within the population of people that meet those requirements, less than 4 percent are known to be missing the Indian B antigen. In addition to those requirements, the blood type must be O or A.

Frieda Bright, a lab manager for OneBlood, says that Zainab’s blood type “is so rare that honestly, this is the first time [she’s] seen it in the 20 years [she’s] been doing this.” OneBlood has teamed up with the American Rare Donor Program to help spread Zainab’s story and hopefully find a donor.

The American Rare Donor Program is a cooperative of the American Red Cross and the American Association of Blood Banks. The program holds a database of over 80,000 rare donors in the United States. A person’s blood type is considered “rare” if one in 1,000 or more individuals lack the same antigen. Needless to say, Zainab’s blood meets that standard.

Fortunately, people are responding to Zainab’s story, and 1,000 people have been tested to see if they are a potential match for the little girl. Out of those 1,000 people, three potential donors have been found — two from the United States, and one from the United Kingdom. OneBlood says this is the first time they’ve found an international donor for a local patient.

While three is a good start, Zainab will continue to need blood transfusions and will most likely require more than three individuals are able to give. OneBlood is hoping to find between seven and ten donors with a compatible blood type for Zainab.

“She’s going to need to be completely supported by blood donations in order to survive the cancer treatment in order to kill this cancer,” Bright said.