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4 donors identified in the race to find rarest blood in the world and save a 2-year-old

A global search is underway for blood donors matching a two-year-old with some of the rarest blood in the wo...

Posted: Jan. 4, 2019 11:36 AM
Updated: Jan. 4, 2019 11:36 AM

A global search is underway for blood donors matching a two-year-old with some of the rarest blood in the world.

Zainab Mughal has been battling cancer, and to survive, she's likely to need blood transfusions from seven to 10 donors. Now four have been found.

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Only people of Pakistani, Indian or Iranian descent who have the same type of blood as Zainab, whose family hails from Pakistan, are likely to match with her. Less than 4% of people in those populations may match, according to OneBlood, a South Florida nonprofit organization that's aiding in a global search to identify and recruit donors for the young girl.

"We have a zero percent chance of finding compatible blood for this little girl if we look in pretty much any other ethnic group," Frieda Bright, a lab manager with OneBlood, said in a video provided by the organization. "We are searching the world to try to find blood for this little girl."

Last month, OneBlood says they found two donors in the United States and one in the United Kingdom. A fourth donor was located in the UK on Wednesday. The search will continue worldwide until the organization finds three to six more donors, OneBlood said in a statement.

A person's blood type is determined by antigens. Zainab's blood is missing an antigen called Indian B, and her body will attack transfused blood that contains it. So, like Zainab, her donors need to be missing the antigen. In addition, they must have type O or A blood.

Such donors are "extremely rare," said Sandra Nance, senior director of the American Rare Donor Program.

Nance said the program tracks at least 59 types of rare blood and has over 120,000 registered donors. She said not a single donor matching Zainab's blood type was registered in the program's US database when the search for matching donors began in September. Since then, two compatible donors in the US and one in the UK have been found, according to OneBlood.

"Lucky, thank God, they have found three donors. So, so far, she has been going through her normal treatment," her father, Raheel Mughal, said in a video provided by OneBlood. "We will definitely need more blood."

Zainab's family made the video with OneBlood to call attention to her story. They were unavailable to speak with CNN directly.

Zainab's cancer, neuroblastoma, developed in her nerve cells and requires chemotherapy for treatment.

"She's going to need to be completely supported by blood donations in order to survive the cancer treatment in order to kill this cancer," Bright said. "The blood's not going to cure her, but the blood's very, very important to support her while she undergoes the treatment for this particular cancer."

Rare blood occurs in less than one in a thousand people, and extremely rare blood can occur in even fewer people, according the American Rare Donor Program. The program, a collaboration between the American Red Cross and AABB, formerly known as the American Association of Blood Banks, is working with OneBlood to secure more rare blood for Zainab.

"Rare blood is the blood that you don't have when you need it no matter what," Nance said. "If a person has been identified as a rare donor and they're called on to give, my hope is that they will donate, if they are able."

In OneBlood video, Mughal made a plea for those who can help. "If you are one of those people from the Middle East, please go out and donate blood for my daughter," he said. "My daughter's life very much depends on the blood."

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