Why are more diverse donors needed?

  • When it comes to helping patients who need a blood transfusion, blood type matching is usually all that's needed. But in some patients, such as premature babies, children fighting cancer, or those living with sickle cell disease, more advanced matching is required.
  • An antigen is a protein found on the surface of our blood cells, and people of all blood types and ethnicities have different combinations of these antigens. People can be positive or negative for a specific antigen. Patients who receive multiple blood transfusions may develop an antibody or in some cases multiple antibodies to antigens that are absent from their own blood cells. Because antigens can trigger an autoimmune response, life-threatening complications can occur if patients aren’t matched with their antigen-specific blood. 
  • Red Cell Antigens like CEK are evaluated for treating patients with specific conditions like Sickle Cell Disease or Thalassemia. These are blood disorders that are prevalent among certain ethnicities.  Patients being treated for these conditions rely on many transfusions over long periods of time to prevent life-threatening complications of their disorder such as stroke. Because these patients may receive many transfusions in their lifetime, the blood center works with treating physicians to find blood donors with specific antigen matches to avoid transfusion reactions over time. 
  • Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA) testing is routinely performed in our Reference Lab and allows the Blood Center to help patients who require special antigen matched platelets. HLA antigens are proteins or markers on the surface of most of our cells, including white blood cells and platelets.  Patients such as those undergoing cancer treatment or mothers and NICU babies may need platelets from donors that have a specific HLA type to prevent a reaction occurring from the transfusion.  
  • CMV or Cytomegalovirus is a virus that is not harmful to healthy adults and is found in more than half the population. Donors who have not been exposed to the virus have CMV negative blood, which is important for patients with weakened or underdeveloped immune systems.

Are there certain conditions that require antigen-matched blood or CMV negative blood for transfusions?

  • Sickle Cell Disease  Inherited blood disorder causing severe anemia. Click here for additional information.
  • Thalassemia  Inherited blood disorder causing severe anemia. Click here for additional information.
  • Some Cancers  Cancer patients may have weakened immune systems and need multiple transfusions during treatment
  • Neonatal Intensive Care and Pregnant women  Moms and babies may need specific antigen matching to ensure blood cell survival
  • Organ transplants
  • Babies, children and some adults with no or weakened immune systems May need CMV negative blood products

How can you help? 

Answer the call to save lives. When hospitals request specific antigen-matched or CMV negative blood, they need it immediately to treat patients who require your specific type. If your blood is identified as a patient match, we will call you to donate blood as soon as possible. It is important that you answer the call, as the window to help these patients is often a matter of hours and few donors are a match.

Help us find more donors. The more blood donors we have, the more opportunities we have to match these patients. Bring a friend or family member with you to donate. Share our messages on social media @impactlifeblood. With your help, we can change the world for patients.


  • What is an antigen?

    An antigen is a protein or marker found on blood cells, and everyone has different combinations of them.

  • What is antigen matching?

    Every day our Reference Lab works with hospitals and physicians to match our blood donors with patients who have the same mix of antigens in their blood. 

  • How do I know if I have a rare blood type?

    ABO blood types are one way to define “rare blood,” with different percentages making up the population (include/link to ABO population breakdown). Antigen testing is even more focused on identifying other factors in the blood.

  • What can I do to help?

    Answer your phone when we call, because it could mean you are the match needed to help save someone’s life.