What is rare blood?

Did you know that some people's blood is rarer than others? It's not just about being type A, B, 0 or AB.

Your blood contains red blood cells. On the surface of those cells are proteins called antigens which have various functions and which may react with the immune system of a blood recipient. There are more than 600 known antigens, with more being discovered every year.

Having rare blood depends on whether or not your red cells carry a particular antigen or combination of antigens, with some combinations being less common than others.

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How we test for rare blood

We can test for rare antigens in your blood using a:


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Blood donation


Blood sample

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Buccal swab sample

What is the International Rare Donor Panel?

The IRDP helps manage the world's supply of rare blood and assists in finding rare blood donors for patients with specific needs.

Established in 1965 by the International Society of Blood Transfusion, the day-to-day operations of the IRDP is handled by the World Health Organization's International Blood Group Reference Laboratory (IBGRL) in the United Kingdom.

The IBGRL compiles blood group information on rare donors who have been identified around the world and then makes the information available to national and international blood operators whenever rare blood is needed.

When a request is made, the IRDP searches through a database of more than 5,000 rare donors to find someone whose blood type matches that of the patient in need. It then asks the facility with the matching donor to send the rare blood (if already on hand) or call in the donor to donate the needed blood. If the rare blood is available in storage, requests can often be filled within 24 hours. If a donor has to be called, more time may be needed to collect, test and ship the blood.

Our partnership with the IRDP helps ensure patient needs for rare blood are met here in Canada. And because Canadian donors are part of the IRDP database, we can do our part in helping other countries meet theirpatients' rare blood transfusion needs.

Saving lives around the world

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56 Blood operators

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27 countries


5,000+ Rare donors