ABO Blood Types and COVID-19: Spurious, Anecdotal, or Truly Important Relationships? A Reasoned Review of Available Data

Viruses. 2021 Jan 22;13(2):160. doi: 10.3390/v13020160.


Since the emergence of COVID-19, many publications have reported associations with ABO blood types. Despite between-study discrepancies, an overall consensus has emerged whereby blood group O appears associated with a lower risk of COVID-19, while non-O blood types appear detrimental. Two major hypotheses may explain these findings: First, natural anti-A and anti-B antibodies could be partially protective against SARS-CoV-2 virions carrying blood group antigens originating from non-O individuals. Second, O individuals are less prone to thrombosis and vascular dysfunction than non-O individuals and therefore could be at a lesser risk in case of severe lung dysfunction. Here, we review the literature on the topic in light of these hypotheses. We find that between-study variation may be explained by differences in study settings and that both mechanisms are likely at play. Moreover, as frequencies of ABO phenotypes are highly variable between populations or geographical areas, the ABO coefficient of variation, rather than the frequency of each individual phenotype is expected to determine impact of the ABO system on virus transmission. Accordingly, the ABO coefficient of variation correlates with COVID-19 prevalence. Overall, despite modest apparent risk differences between ABO subtypes, the ABO blood group system might play a major role in the COVID-19 pandemic when considered at the population level.

Keywords: ABO blood groups; COVID-19; attack rate; natural antibodies; susceptibility; thrombosis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • ABO Blood-Group System / blood*
  • COVID-19 / blood*
  • COVID-19 / epidemiology
  • COVID-19 / microbiology
  • Disease Susceptibility / blood*
  • Disease Susceptibility / epidemiology
  • Disease Susceptibility / microbiology
  • Disease Susceptibility / pathology
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Isoantibodies / blood
  • Microbiota
  • Odds Ratio
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Thrombosis / blood
  • Thrombosis / epidemiology
  • Thrombosis / microbiology


  • ABO Blood-Group System
  • Isoantibodies