Martina Sanderson-Smith, and Post-Doctoral Researcher Dr David De Oliveira

Australian researchers discover link between blood type and infection risk

*Photo by Todd Hardingham

Australian infectious disease researchers at the Illawarra Health and Medical Research Institute have found that people with the blood type O (the most common blood type among Australian patients) could be at higher risk of developing streptococcal infections than those with other blood types.

There are various types of Streptococcal infection, ranging from mild sore throats to deadly infections of the blood or organs. Repeated infections can lead to chronic conditions, such as rheumatic heart disease.

Post-Doctoral Researcher Dr David De Oliveira studied Group A Streptococcus (GAS) and found that the sugar molecules on type O blood may create a ‘bridge’ for colonisation – leaving type O carriers more susceptible to a particularly virulent clone of GAS (M1T1 GAS) present in many invasive infections.

Senior Research Fellow Dr Martina Sanderson-Smith, who co-published the study with Dr De Oliveria, said;

 “We know that some people are more susceptible to streptococcal infections. We wanted to see if there are other biological reasons that increase the risks, and understand why some people suffer repeated infections.”

The next step for the researchers will be a new project studying saliva samples taken from people colonised with GAS, in collaboration with researchers at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute.

Their hope is that one day they will be able to develop a non-antibiotic treatment for children with sore throats;

“A sore throat is one of the most common reasons children are prescribed antibiotics, but we are becoming more aware that antibiotic overuse can be a problem, so developing non-antibiotic treatments for bacterial infections is important”, said Dr Sanderson-Smith.

Read more about the research here.