February 20, 2019
Health

Indian Doctors Successfully Treated Six-Year-Old Afghan Girl Suffering from Thalassemia Major

• Doctors at Fortis hospital successfully treated a six-year-old girl from Afghanistan suffering from thalassemia major through Bone Marrow Transplant (BMT)

• With remarkable treatment outcomes, treating doctors are hopeful that BMT will bring radical improvements in the treatment of life-threatening Genetic Blood Diseases, like beta-thalassemia and sickle cell anaemia

Doctors at Fortis Hospital treated a six-year-old Afghan girl, Hasnat, suffering from thalassemia major (also known as beta thalassemia), through Bone Marrow Transplant (BMT). The procedure, earlier known to treat some types of cancers like leukaemia, lymphoma and myeloma, is now increasingly recognised as an effective treatment option for genetic blood diseases like thalassemia major.

Hasnat was diagnosed with thalassemia major when she was just six months old. With limited resources, inadequate knowledge about the disease and very basic medical facility, the revelation left the parents devastated and confused, not knowing what to do to save the life of their little girl. It was after five and half years, which they spent in anxiousness of getting their daughter monthly blood transfusions while fearing for her life, that decided to come to India for advanced treatment.

Explaining the case, Dr Rahul Bhargava, Director, Department of Clinical Haematology & Bone Marrow Transplant, Fortis Hospital, told, “The fact that the family had travelled all the way from Afghanistan and was relying upon us for our expertise, made it even more crucial for all of us to give them the best possible treatment in India. Fortunately, the girl’s younger sister, Munawwara, turned out be the perfect match, making the BMT procedure possible. With excellent recovery and minimal follow-ups, the treatment turned out to be exactly the way we had hoped for.”

Commenting on the treatment, Dr Vikas Dua, Head & Senior Consultant, Department of Paediatric Haematology Oncology and Bone Marrow Transplant said, “Beta Thalassemia or thalassemia major is a genetic disease wherein the patients have two damaged genes that lead to a need of frequent blood transfusions to survive. People with this condition often do not have a normal lifespan. However, advanced treatment modalities, like BMT, have now opened the doors to more options for such patients. We are hopeful that such success stories will change the way we have been addressing genetic blood diseases.”

Till now BMT is not been conventionally used for genetic blood disorders, like thalassemia major and sickle cell anaemia. As of now, such patients have to rely on regular blood transfusion to survive and usually have a poor quality of life, with reduced lifespan. However, with such innovative approaches in treatment, patients in near future are sure to get better treatment options and an opportunity to survive.

“We cannot thank enough Dr Vikas Dua and his team for giving my little niece a chance to live a normal life. Hasnat is doing perfectly fine. She does not require any more blood transfusions, she is officially thalassemia free. What more a patient can ask for,” said Hasnat ’s uncle.

“Such cases send out a message to all the people dealing with similar situations that they should not fear from exploring advanced treatment options. They should consult experts and understand if procedures like Bone Marrow Transplant can be a way forward for them,” added Dr Dua.

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