By Emma Bowden, Press Association
A UK donor has been found to help save the life of a two-year-old girl in the US with one of the rarest blood types in the world.
Zainab Mughal, from Miami in Florida, has neuroblastoma, an aggressive form of cancer, which means she needs a series of blood transfusions.
Her blood is missing an antigen called Indian B, which most people have in their red blood cells, meaning the search for donors is confined to a very specific population – people whose two birth parents are both 100% of Pakistani, Indian or Iranian origin.
Even within that population, only 4% of people have the unusual genetic variation, according to Florida-based charity OneBlood, and donors must have type O or A blood.
Following a global search, a British Indian mother of two was found to be a match.
The 50-year-old, from Nottingham, said she feels “privileged” that her donation was being used to help Zainab.
The donor, who has decided to remain anonymous, said: “I didn’t know who the recipient was when I donated but I do know now, having read the coverage.
“I am very humbled that I have played a small part in aiding someone’s recovery from illness.
“I do hope the publicity encourages more people to donate, especially from the Asian community, as even a single donation can make a massive difference to someone who needs it.”
Two other donors have been found, but doctors estimate they will need at least seven to 10 people to contribute throughout the course of Zainab’s treatment.
OneBlood and the American Rare Donor Programme, working together to lead the search for donors, contacted the International Blood Group Reference Laboratory (IBGRL), a specialist unit in Filton in Bristol run by NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT).
The IBGRL team’s work includes compiling and maintaining the International Rare Donor Panel (IRDP), a rare blood donor database with details of donors from 27 contributing countries.
The match was found on the UK’s own rare donor panel and asked to donate a unit, which was tested by NHSBT and given to the US.
All NHSBT blood donors from ethnic minority backgrounds have extended blood group testing, because they are more likely to share rare blood groups found in ethnic minority patients, and there is a shortage of black and Asian blood donors in England.
Dr Rekha Anand, the NHSBT consultant haematologist who manages the UK’s rare donor panel, said: “This was a team effort from NHS Blood and Transplant.
“The donor is always very happy to help. The credit goes to all our British donors, whose altruism is the key.
“We would urge more British people from minorities to also come forward and donate because we do not have enough donors from these backgrounds.”