Bacteria Can Turn Type A and B Blood Into a Universal Type O

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iStock

People with Type O blood might not be the only “universal donors” for much longer, according to new research showing that gut bacteria can be used to convert A and B blood types into O blood. As Newsweek reports, this discovery could provide a potentially life-saving service to people who urgently need blood transfusions in the event that O blood isn't readily available.

Steve Withers of the University of British Colombia is presenting the research this week at the American Chemical Society (ACS) national meeting. For each of the four blood types, different sugars are present on the outside of red blood cells. The immune system identifies these sugars as antigens, which can destroy cells and cause an allergic response if they’re not compatible with the transfusion recipient’s blood type. Because Type O blood has no antigens, it can be accepted by everyone.

Withers found that enzymes from one’s gut bacteria—specifically E. coli—could be used to eat away at the antigens attached to A and B blood cells, thus transforming them into O cells.

As the ACS video below explains, “The researchers homed in on the enzymes the bacteria use to pluck the sugars off and found a new family of enzymes that are 30 times more effective at removing red blood cell sugars than previously reported candidates.”

Previous research has taken a similar approach, but until now, scientists have been unable to find the right enzymes to fulfill the task safely and economically, according to Withers. 

Withers is now working with colleagues to validate these findings in hopes of potentially rolling them out in a clinical setting. “Of course, it will have to go through lots of clinical trials to make sure that it doesn’t have any adverse consequences, but it is looking very promising,” Withers said in a statement.

[h/t Newsweek]

Crocs Is Donating More Than 100,000 Pairs of Shoes to Healthcare Workers

Sturdy, comfortable Crocs are a favorite among healthcare professionals.
Sturdy, comfortable Crocs are a favorite among healthcare professionals.
David Silverman/Getty Images

Crocs have long been a favorite among healthcare workers who spend hours on their feet each day—and now, they can get a pair for free.

This week, the company announced that it will give away more than 100,000 pairs of shoes to medical professionals fighting the new coronavirus in the U.S. ClickOrlando reports that workers can submit their requests for Crocs Classic Clogs or Crocs at Work via an online form on the Crocs website, which will open each weekday at 12 p.m. EST and continue accepting orders until it fulfills its daily allotment.

According to a press release, that allotment is a whopping 10,000 pairs of shoes per day. The as-yet-unspecified end date for the program—called “A Free Pair for Healthcare”—depends on inventory levels and the number of requests the company receives. In addition to shipping shoes to individuals, Crocs is also planning to donate up to 100,000 more pairs directly to healthcare organizations. So far, they’ll send shoes to the Dayton Area Hospital Association in Ohio, St. Anthony North Health Campus in Denver, Colorado, the Atlantic Health System in New Jersey, and more.

“These workers have our deepest respect, and we are humbled to be able to answer their call and provide whatever we can to help during this unprecedented time,” Crocs president and CEO Andrew Rees said in the release. “Share the word to all those in healthcare and please be mindful to allow those who need these most to place their requests. This is the least we can do for those working incredibly hard to defeat this virus.”

Healthcare professionals can request their free Crocs here.

[h/t ClickOrlando]

On This Day in 1953, Jonas Salk Announced His Polio Vaccine

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Getty Images

On March 26, 1953, Dr. Jonas Salk went on CBS radio to announce his vaccine for poliomyelitis. He had worked for three years to develop the polio vaccine, attacking a disease that killed 3000 Americans in 1952 alone, along with 58,000 newly reported cases. Polio was a scourge, and had been infecting humans around the world for millennia. Salk's vaccine was the first practical way to fight it, and it worked—polio was officially eliminated in the U.S. in 1979.

Salk's method was to kill various strains of the polio virus, then inject them into a patient. The patient's own immune system would then develop antibodies to the dead virus, preventing future infection by live viruses. Salk's first test subjects were patients who had already had polio ... and then himself and his family. His research was funded by grants, which prompted him to give away the vaccine after it was fully tested.

Clinical trials of Salk's vaccine began in 1954. By 1955 the trials proved it was both safe and effective, and mass vaccinations of American schoolchildren followed. The result was an immediate reduction in new cases. Salk became a celebrity because his vaccine saved so many lives so quickly.

Salk's vaccine required a shot. In 1962, Dr. Albert Sabin unveiled an oral vaccine using attenuated (weakened but not killed) polio virus. Sabin's vaccine was hard to test in America in the late 1950s, because so many people had been inoculated using the Salk vaccine. (Sabin did much of his testing in the Soviet Union.) Oral polio vaccine, whether with attenuated or dead virus, is still the preferred method of vaccination today. Polio isn't entirely eradicated around the world, though we're very close.

Here's a vintage newsreel from the mid 1950s telling the story:

For more information on Dr. Jonas Salk and his work, click here.

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