Donor hunting was a race against time in 15-year-old Banin Mohamad Humza’s case, considering that her condition was deteriorating fast. Luckily, they found a genetic match in Germany.
The bone marrow transplant on Banin Mohamad Humza was successfully carried out a month ago. (Pic for representational purposes only).
Finding somebody with a bone marrow match can be most challenging, which is why it seemed like nothing short of miracle when this Iraqi girl with aplastic anaemia hit gold thousands of miles away in Germany.
Soon afterwards, doctors at the Asian Institute of Medical Sciences in Faridabad successfully performed matched unrelated donor (MUD) stem cell transplantation on 15-year-old Banin Mohamad Humza. The girl had been suffering from the condition for a year now.
“Severe aplastic anaemia occurs when the patient’s body stops producing enough new blood cells. It leaves the patient fatigued, and at a higher risk of infection as well as uncontrolled bleeding,” said Dr Prashant Mehta, a bone marrow transplant specialist at the hospital.
The doctor described it as a rare condition that can develop at any age. “It may occur suddenly or slowly, and get worse over a long period of time. A bone marrow transplant is currently its only proven cure,” he said.
In Banin Mohamad’s case, doctors could not find any genetically matching relative to act as the bone marrow donor. In about 75% of these cases, they are unable to find a match in the family – raising the requirement for an alternative donor.
Donor hunting was a race against time in Banin’s case, considering that her condition was deteriorating fast. Luckily, they found a genetic match in Germany. “We used special techniques to harvest and transport the donor cells. The transplant was successfully carried out a month ago,” said Dr Mehta.
She was subjected to chemotherapy during the four-week procedure, which involved the destruction of damaged cells and simultaneous infusion of new ones. In the weeks that followed, she underwent intensive monitoring and supportive care through multiple transfusions.
“Fortunately, her body accepted the donor cells and the procedure was successfully completed. At present, she is free of the disease and the blood count has normalised. She is on follow-up care on an outpatient basis,” said Dr Mehta.
Banin is one of the few patients in India to be treated with donor cells from the international database. MUD transplantation is uncommon in India due to risk of complications, besides logistic difficulties in procuring the cells from places outside India.
While 45 million people across the globe are registered with Bone Marrow Donor Worldwide and other stem cell registries to meet the needs of patients, the donor pool in India is miniscule. Indian registries show just three lakh donors.
“It’s important not only to have more donors but also the requisite technology required to preserve the cells for a longer period. We also have the best cryopreservation facilities at our hospital, so the cells can be used for the same patient in the future – if required,” said Dr NK Pandey, chairman and managing director of the Asian Institute of Medical Sciences.
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