Hospitals currently keep type O blood on hand in the event that a patient needs it because it’s almost guaranteed to be compatible with the patient’s blood. If a patient is given a blood type that isn’t the same as theirs, or type O, they could have an adverse reaction ranging from flu-like symptoms to death. To prevent this from happening, and to reduce the need for only O blood, researchers at the Third Military Medical University in China have developed a bedside blood type test, according to New Scientist.
The reason type O is compatible with the other blood types is that it contains no antigens. When different antigens mix, the antibodies in the blood have an immune system reaction and attack the foreign antigens. Regular blood tests to ensure only compatible transfusions take time, something many patients in dire situations don’t have.
The bedside test identifies antigens present in the blood to determine which blood type it is. The test is a strip of paper with antibodies integrated into it. When blood is dropped on the paper, the antibodies react, and have a color chemical reaction visible to doctors allowing them to determine which blood type a patient has in about 30 seconds, according to a study published in the Science Translational Medicine journal.
A trial done on more than 3,500 blood samples was 99.9 percent accurate, according to New Scientist. Once the test is streamlined and mass produced it could be extremely affordable and an important step forward for doctors working in remote or financially disadvantaged areas of the world.