A six-year-old girl, Hasnat, from Afghanistan, was treated for thalassemia major (also known as Beta Thalassemia) through a bone marrow transplant from her five-year-old sister, at a Delhi hospital recently. The procedure, earlier known to treat cancers like leukemia, lymphoma, and myeloma, is now increasingly recognized as an effective treatment option for genetic blood diseases.

Hasnat was diagnosed with thalassemia major when she was six-months-old. With limited resources, inadequate knowledge about the disease and basic medical facility, the parents waited confused about what needed to be done. It was after five and a half years, which they spent getting their daughter monthly blood transfusions, they decided to come to India for advanced treatment.

“The fact that the family had traveled all the way from Afghanistan and was relying on us for our expertise, made it even more crucial for us to give them the best possible treatment in India. Fortunately, the girl’s younger sister, Munawwara, turned out to 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,” said Dr. Rahul Bhargava, director, department of clinical hematology and bone marrow transplant, Fortis Hospital.

Till date, thalassemia patients have to rely on regular blood transfusion to survive and usually have a poor quality of life, with reduced lifespan. However, with innovative approaches in treatment, patients in near future are sure to get better treatment options and an opportunity to survive, say experts.

Beta-thalassemia or thalassemia major is a genetic disease wherein the patients have two damaged genes that lead to a need for 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,” said Dr. Vikas Dua, head and senior consultant, department of pediatric hematology, oncology and bone marrow transplant.

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