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Sickle cell in Hispanic Americans: The need for a diverse blood supply

During Hispanic Heritage Month, it is important to highlight sickle cell disease and why donor diversity is a key initiative at Carter BloodCare.

But why is a diverse blood supply important if everyone has one of the eight blood types?

Although everyone has either A, B, AB or O blood, there are antigens attached to the outside of each cell, and matching blood antigens from donor blood to recipients – especially for sickle cell patients – is important. Receiving blood from someone with a matching ethnic background increases the likelihood that the five most important antigens – C, c, D, E and e – will match. This is why diversity in our blood supply is so important. R0 blood is made up of antigens Dce and is the type most ideal to treat sickle cell patients.

If these patients receive blood with antigens that don’t match, their bodies could create antibodies that will learn to attack those mismatching antigens, which could make it impossible for the patients to receive blood with those specific antigens later. It is generally OK to transfuse a sickle cell patient with blood that has mismatching antigens, but it is usually done as a last-case scenario.

Sickle cell disease occurs in about 1 in every 16,300 Hispanic births, second-most among all ethnic groups. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, more than 6,000 Texans have sickle cell disease. Most of these patients will need monthly or near-monthly blood transfusions for the rest of their lives, with around 10-12 units of blood transfused at each appointment.

Four hospitals in the DFW area have sickle cell treatment programs in place, and many sickle cell patients go to these hospitals for treatment because of their protocols. Carter BloodCare is the exclusive blood provider for each of these hospitals, making it important for us to maintain a diverse blood supply.

It may seem like taking an hour from start to finish to donate blood is a lot of time, but sickle cell patients will spend upwards of six hours receiving their transfusions. Carter BloodCare distributes around 500 units of blood each month specifically to help treat sickle cell patients, but it is a challenge to meet demand almost every month. Your donation helps keep these patients alive; schedule to donate blood today.