Bombay blood group keeps docs on toes

Jan 14, 2011, 01.16am IST
KOLKATA: A patient with a rare blood group left doctors stumped at a city hospital this week. Haradhan Pal, a 68-year-old cancer patient, has O+ blood group but he could not be given blood from normal donors of the same group.

Why? Tests revealed that Pal belonged to the rare "Bombay blood group" that didn't match with any of the other groups. First identified in Mumbai, from which the group derives its name, so far there have been just 179 such cases reported in India.

"It's tricky since there are very few with this group in India. Fortunately, we have managed to trace a family in Batanagar which has three members with this group. One of them will be donating blood to Pal who needs a transfusion urgently," said Ashish Mukhopadhyay, director of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose Cancer Research Institute ( NSCBCRI). Pal, suffering from renal cell carcinoma or kidney cancer is now undergoing treatment at the hospital.

It is difficult to identify those with Bombay blood group. When screened, they are found to belong to O+ group, which is a regular one. But in these individuals, the antigen H is absent, unlike the vast majority with O+ blood. The latter generally have no antigen other than H but possess anti-bodies. Those with A blood group don't have the antigen while the reverse is true for those with B blood group. In AB, both antigens are present.

While Pal needs a transfusion to overcome his acute anaemic condition, doctors have been in a fix for the past two weeks. They have first been struggling to identify the reason why his blood didn't match with donors from the same group. Then, they were hard pressed to search for a donor from the Bombay group.

A search over the Internet didn't help. "There wasn't much information available on the whereabouts of these people. Then, we dug deep into our own records and traced a patient in Bongaon. It led us to three families in Bongaon and Batanagar which had multiple members with the blood group. At least two of them have agreed to donate blood to Pal," said Mukhopadhyay.

There have been cases, including one in Mumbai recently, where an accident victim with the blood group died as he could not be operated upon. Doctors could not find a donor for transfusion that would have been necessary. Even though it has first been identified in Mumbai, the city is now believed to have just 35-40 people with the group. There is no record of the others with Bombay group in the country. West Bengal is believed to have about a dozen.

"It is imperative for these patients to keep in touch with one another for otherwise they would be in trouble if they require a transfusion. We are lucky to have got hold of donors in this case but nobody knows what the future holds for the patient," added Mukhopadhyay. Pal had been suffering from an infection but has now improved. His condition was stated to be stable.