BACKGROUND The transfusion of ABO-incompatible RBCs is the leading cause of fatal transfusion reactions. Group O RBCs, lacking terminal immunodominant A and B sugars to which humans are immunized, are safe for transfusion to persons of any ABO blood group. With the use of a recombinant alpha-galactosidase to remove terminal galactose from group B RBCs, the safety and efficacy of
enzyme-converted group-B-to-group-O (ECO) RBC components were studied in transfusion-dependent patients. STUDY DESIGN AND METHODS Twenty-four patients (blood groups A and O) were randomly assigned to receive transfusion(s) of either ECO or control group O RBCs. If a second transfusion was given, the other blood component was administered. RESULTS Twenty-one patients were given ECO RBCs; 18 also underwent control transfusions. One patient received only a small aliquot for RBC survival studies, instead of a full-unit transfusion, because his serum was incompatible with ECO RBCs. No adverse events occurred. Both ECO and control transfusions resulted in appropriate Hb increments and comparable (51)Cr-labeled RBC survival studies. One patient developed a transient, weak-positive DAT, without hemolysis. Two weeks after transfusion, 5 of 19 evaluable ECO RBC recipients had increases in anti-B titers. CONCLUSION ECO RBCs were comparable to group O cells for safety and efficacy in this study. The clinical significance of the increase in anti-B and of occasional serologic incompatibilities with ECO RBCs is unclear. If strategies can be developed to remove A epitopes, enzymatic conversion could be used to create a universal (group O) donor blood supply.