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Fewer Than 50 People in the World Have This Blood Type

We’ve all learned at school about the basic blood types - A, B, or O, as well as positive or negative Rh. And while this basic understanding of blood types can describe the vast majority of the world population, it overlooks some people whose blood doesn’t fit these constraints. The rarest and most precious blood type in the world falls within that last category. It’s called Rh-null, and fewer than 50 people worldwide are known to have this rare blood.

How is Rh-null different from Rh-?

golden blood blood cells in the blood vessel

To understand how someone can have an Rh-null blood type, we must remind ourselves what determines a blood type, to begin with. Blood type is identified through the presence and absence of certain sugars and proteins that attach themselves to blood cells that are called antigens.

One of the most common antigens is the RhD protein, which is somewhat mistakably known as either Rh+ when it’s present or Rh- if it’s not. In reality, there are more antigens in the Rh group, but more on that later. The reason why these antigens are so important is that they can trigger the production of antibodies and incompatibilities can be dangerous to one's health.

When someone who doesn’t have a specific antigen, let's say RhD-, receives blood from someone who does (RhD+), antibodies are produced that trigger an immune response in the body, attacking the newly transfused blood, which could potentially have a lethal outcome. That’s why it’s important to match up blood types during a blood transfusion.

Related Article: 20 Amazing Blood Type Facts You Never Knew

Now, there are actually 342 such known antigens in humans, and only roughly half of those, around 160, are common. If you don’t have an antigen that’s present in 99.9 percent of people, your blood is considered super rare, and finding a donor will be tricky. But believe it or not, there are also those people whose blood is even more scarce - the ones who lack an entire group of antigens. 

golden blood blood bags

The Rh group, formerly known are Rhesus, is the largest such group that includes 61 antigens, and medical scientists first thought that this group is necessary for survival and that people lacking the entire Rh group would simply never be born or die shortly after being born.

The Golden Blood

In 1961, they realized that they were wrong, as one Aboriginal woman in Australia had no antigens belonging to the Rh group at all. This was the first recorded case of the Rh-null group, the rarest blood in the world. Since 1961, only 43 people with this rare blood type have been found.

“It’s the golden blood,” stated Dr Thierry Peyrard, the Director of the National Immunohematology Reference Laboratory in Paris. Not only because it’s so rare, but also because it has lifesaving capabilities. This is because it’s considered universal and can be given to anyone with a rare Rh blood type during a lifesaving medical procedure. Rh-null blood is in extremely high demand both for research purposes and lifesaving blood transfusions, but only 7 of the 43 known Rh-null people are known to regularly donate blood.

Needless to say, life with the rarest blood in the world is no ordinary life, it's a lifetime of anxieties, blood donations, and self-imposed restrictions. This is mainly because the bodies of these people can only accept Rh-null blood, and the remaining 7 souls willing to offer a transfusion are scattered far and wide across the globe - Japan, Ireland, the U.S, China, and Brazil.

One of them, a man from Switzerland, stated in an interview that his childhood was deprived of camps and many recreational activities because his parents were afraid he would get hurt. To this day, he can’t travel to countries without advanced medical facilities, and drives VERY carefully to avoid accidents at all costs, since getting blood from across-the-border would be nearly impossible, especially in an emergency situation.

Thus, one could say that, for once, most of us can be happy to be part of the 99%.

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