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Unusual Circumstances May Result in Additional Rare Units of Blood for Zainab

Unusual Circumstances May Result in Additional Rare Units of Blood for Zainab

(Orlando, Florida January 14, 2019)   An unusual turn of events have occurred that may result in two additional units of blood to be available for two-year-old Zainab, a South Florida girl battling cancer who has extremely rare blood.

Prior to giving birth, a New York woman with the same rare blood type as Zainab donated her own blood to have available in case she needed a transfusion during child birth.  Fortunately, the woman recently delivered a healthy baby and did not require any blood transfusions.

When the woman was told she had the same rare blood type as Zainab, she agreed that the two units of blood she donated for herself could be sent to OneBlood, the not-for-profit blood center in Florida leading the worldwide search for compatible donors for Zainab.

OneBlood is in the process of following the proper protocols to determine if the units can be designated for Zainab.

While it is promising news the additional units have been discovered, OneBlood is now awaiting final written approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that the units can be used for Zainab.

Approval is required because autologous donations, (which are units that are donated for one’s own use) are not permitted for use with other patients without FDA approval.

OneBlood will also seek approval from its national accrediting agency (AABB) as well as Zainab’s physicians to use the units in this manner.

OneBlood, as well as Zainab’s parents, are grateful the woman agreed to provide her two units of blood.  FDA blood donation rules prevent a woman from donating blood for at least eight weeks after giving birth.  OneBlood hopes the woman will consider donating for Zainab when she becomes eligible.

Zainab Update

Zainab is scheduled to have surgery on Wednesday, January 16th to have the cancerous tumor removed.  Following her recovery from surgery, the next step in her treatment will be for her to have a bone marrow transplant.

Zainab will need blood transfusions throughout her treatment. Currently OneBlood and the American Rare Donor Program have located four donors with the same rare blood type as Zainab. Two of the donors are from the United States and two are from the United Kingdom.  The search continues to find three to six additional donors to sustain the amount of blood Zainab will need going forward.


Zainab’s blood is extremely rare because she is missing a common antigen that most people carry on their red blood cells. The antigen is called “Indian B” (Inb). For a person to be a possible match for Zainab, they must also be missing the Indian B antigen, or the little girl's body will reject the blood.  Locating people who are missing the Indian B antigen comes down to genetics.

Statistically, the only people who are likely to be a match for Zainab are people of Pakistani, Indian or Iranian descent. Of these populations, less than 4% of the people are actually missing the Indian B antigen.

OneBlood is working closely with other blood centers and the American Rare Donor Program (ARDP), an organization that searches the world for rare blood donors. So far, four matching donors have been located, including two donors that ARDP located in the United Kingdom.  The other two matching donors are from the United States.

While it’s promising the four donors have been located, additional donors are needed.  Zainab will need blood transfusions for the foreseeable future.  To support her long-term blood needs, OneBlood hopes to find at least seven to ten compatible donors. OneBlood is sharing Zainab’s story in the hopes more people who meet the specific donor criteria will come forward to donate for the little girl. 

Since making the story public in December, OneBlood has received more than 25,000 emails from people who potentially meet the specific donor criteria needed to be a match for Zainab. The donors are being contacted by OneBlood or by blood centers where the potential donors reside to coordinate their donation.  

The effort to find compatible blood for Zainab is an all-hands-on-deck effort throughout the blood banking industry. Nearly two dozen blood centers are actively working with OneBlood to find compatible donors.  To date, the OneBlood Reference Laboratory team has tested nearly 3,000 units of blood.  Testing is taking place around-the-clock. 

OneBlood says the response by the public to help Zainab has been unprecedented and is bringing heightened awareness to the need for a diverse blood supply. 

To be a match for Zainab a donor must meet the following criteria:

  1. Must be exclusively Pakistani, Indian or Iranian descent – meaning the donor’s birth parents are both 100% Pakistani, Indian or Iranian 
  2. Must be blood type “O” or “A”  (If a donor does not know their blood type, but meet the requirements in bullet point #1, they should still donate to see if they are a possible match)
  3. IMPORTANT: Donors must inform their phlebotomist prior to their donation that they are donating for Zainab to ensure their donation receives the additional compatibility testing necessary to determine if they are a match for Zainab.
  4. Donation information can be found at

Generally healthy people age 16 or older who weigh at least 110 pounds can donate blood. Photo ID is required. To learn more about the importance of blood donation and how donors can target the power of their blood type visit All donors receive a wellness checkup of blood pressure, pulse, temperature and iron count, including a cholesterol screening, plus a surprise gift.

One of three people will need blood in their lifetime. Blood that is donated today will likely be transfused within two to three days. The turn-around is that fast, the need is constant.

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