January is National Blood Donor Month. If you’ve ever donated blood (or received blood from a donation) then you might have wondered why some types of blood can’t be given to some people. And what is it that makes blood types different anyway? This graphic looks at the compatibilities of different blood types, and below we’ll try to get to the bottom of what makes them different.
There are actually lots of different blood types. The International Society of Blood Transfusion recognises 35 blood group systems. We commonly refer to just two of these systems when classifying blood type: the ABO system and the Rh system.
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The graphic below shows, blood types aren’t evenly distributed through the population. Worldwide, the AB– blood group is the rarest, though there are variations in different parts of the world and for different ethnicities. It’s also worth remembering that the ABO and Rh systems only account for some of the possible antigens in blood; there are actually over 600 known antigens. In cases where a person has a particularly rare combination of antigens in their blood, it can be difficult to find a compatible donor.