University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics looking for more diverse blood donors

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IOWA CITY, Iowa (KCRG) - Leaders at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics are looking for more diverse blood types to help them treat sickle cell diseases.

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Doctors say they have seen a large increase in patients over the last four years.

Sickle cell affects black people the most. Researchers at UIHC say 90% of their patients with sickle cell disease are black people. They are looking for more black donors to help treat those patients.

Researchers say black people make up less than 5% of the people who give blood at the Degowin Blood Center in Iowa City.

Since blood types can be unique for certain racial groups, leaders say it's easier to find a match when the donor is the same ethnicity. They say sickle cell targeting black people goes back centuries.

“Largely because of malaria we think,” said Dr. Mike Knudson, Professor of Pathology at UIHC. “Malaria was very prevalent and this is centuries ago in Africa. It's a mosquito-borne illness, most people are familiar with that, and it had a high mortality rate, and if you are a carrier of sickle cell disease then you are protected from malaria."

Researchers say people haven't had to wait long to get a blood transfusion, but it may become an issue if the demand keeps growing.

Researchers tell say they don't know why there's been a spike in sickle cell lately. They suggest it could be because Iowa City is becoming more diverse. UIHC's blood center is open during the week. They can be contacted at 319-356-2058. Click here to visit their website.