New Life for Iraqi Girl with German Donor’s Stem Cells

New Delhi: A 15-year-old Iraqi girl suffering from severe aplastic anaemia got a new lease of life after she received stem cells from an unrelated German donor.

Doctors at a private hospital in Faridabad, where the girl underwent the bone marrow transplant (BMT) recently, said an unrelated donor (MUD) was matched through international database. Aplastic anaemia is a condition when the patient’s body stops producing enough new blood cells. This leaves the patient fatigued and at a higher risk of infection and uncontrolled bleeding.

The patient, Banin Mohammad Humza, had started showing symptoms two-anda-half-years ago and her condition was deteriorating with every passing day as she would require frequent platelet and blood transfusion. “She would develop infections and require hospitalisation frequently as white blood cells were low in her body,” said Dr Prashant Mehta, a bone marrow transplant specialist at Asian Institute of Medical Sciences, Faridabad.

As doctors in her country gave up on her treatment, Banin’s family came to India. “After evaluating her case, we reached the conclusion that bone marrow transplant was the only cure,” Mehta said. The doctors could not find any genetically matching (HLA) donors within Banin’s family. In around 75% of these cases, a match in the family is not found raising the requirement for an alternative donor.

The doctors then checked the registries of stem cells donors in India, but in vain. They then looked at the registries of other countries and luckily found a donor who matched her HLA type in Germany. “The stem cells of the donor, a 25-year-old male, were shipped to India after we put in a request. It was stored at minus 80 degrees Celsius for two weeks before being transplanted,” said Dr Mehta.

Dr N K Pandey, chairman and managing director of the hospital, said, “While globally 45 million people are registered with Bone Marrow Donor World Wide and other stem cell registries, in India the donor pool is only around 3 lakh, which is minuscule.”