Doctors at BLK Super Speciality Hospital claimed to have performed the first-ever successful reported case of haplo-identical bone marrow transplant to give a new life to four-year-old Nigerian boy, Nathan Ekundayo, who was struggling with life-threatening Sickle Cell Disease (SCD).

After years of severe pain, blood transfusion and medication, Ekundayo along with his parents are now all set to return to his country.

Speaking at a press conference organised to announce the achievement, the child’s parents Mr. Wale Ekundayo and Ms. Oindya Ekundayo said that Nathan, their only child, was diagnosed to have SCD soon after he turned one and started having severe joint pain. He needed frequent hospitalisation. The only option was Bone Marrow Transplant (BMT).

“When he came to us in August, the child was in a very serious condition and had an acute chest syndrome and complaints of severe joint pain. His sickle cell haemoglobin had increased to 88 per cent which worsened the condition further. Nathan was also prone to have life threatening stroke if we delayed treatment,” said Dr. Gaurav Kharya, senior consultant, Center for Bone Marrow Transplant, BLK Super Speciality Hospital.

Being the only child, Nathan did not have the option of sibling bone marrow and we advised the parents to undergo high resolution Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA), a procedure to check compatibility of bone marrow, said the treating doctor.

In rare 5-10 per cent cases parents can also be a complete match with the child. “Unfortunately neither HLA matched with Nathan. Their HLA was also shared with various international registries but there was no suitable donor found anywhere,” added Dr. Kharya.

Failing this, both parents were convinced to go for haplo-identical transplant and his father agreed to become a donor. This is a new transplant strategy for SCD patients and not many transplants have been done using this. Haplo-identical transplant comes with a lot of challenges including high chances of rejection.

Dr. Kharya further added that blood transfusion was given for initial two months to bring down his sickle level as direct transplant would have increased a chance of rejection. Post transplant (on August 20) he showed very good recovery and new marrow started working on day 12.

His chimerism (DNA testing) done on day 14 showed 99.45 per cent bone marrow precursor cells from his father. He was successfully discharged on day 20, having sickle haemoglobin level decreased with 10 per cent post transplant.

“We are grateful to the hospital and doctors for their support,” said Wale and Oindya Ekundayo.


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