Suppose in one room we gathered Duffy, Kidd, Diego, Lutheran, Langereis, Vel, and Junior.
This would constitute a most extraordinary meeting because these are the names of the rarest blood types ever identified. Only 550 people in the world have Lutheran blood, for example.
But if in that meeting we included a man named Thomas from Switzerland, you would have the rarest meeting in the history of the earth.
There’s no engaging name for Thomas’ blood, except insofar as some have called it ‘golden.’ His blood is RH-null and it is so extraordinary that, of the 7.5 billion people in the world, only 43 have ever been identified as having it and only nine are active blood donors today.
Most people know there are eight blood types: A, B, AB, and 0, positive or negative. But each of these blood types can be divided into distinct varieties depending on which antigens the blood contains or doesn’t contain. AB blood has A and B antigens. O blood doesn’t have either. Positive blood contains the Rh D antigen; negative blood lacks it. But there are hundreds of antigens coating the blood, making perhaps millions of combinations, according to Smithsonian.
It’s important to know the antigen profile of blood because, if the wrong antigen combination is transfused, a patient can die. Even so, doctors do millions of transfusions every day with few complications.
But golden blood is unique, and that is an understatement. Rh-null has no antigens. It can be accepted by anyone with a rare blood type in the RH system and that makes it infinitely precious. It is so precious that it is never used except under the most extreme circumstances.
The flip side is that a person with RH-null blood can only accept RH-null blood. That means Thomas of Switzerland should never find himself in the position of needing a blood transfusion. If he does, he should certainly not find himself in a remote part of the world. This rare blood can be provided if the tiny number of donors are available, but it requires an international mobilization of blood providers to do it. Much would depend on timing and Thomas’ location.
In 2014, Thomas told Mosaic Science that he drives carefully, never speeds, and doesn’t take vacations to exotic locales. But he does ski.