Eight months later, there still remains much that we have to learn and uncover where the complexities of the Covid-19 novel coronavirus are concerned. With its potency and frequency of mutations, scientists are still racing against the clock to decipher much of the enigma that surrounds this disease.
But in incredible news to emerge from Thailand just recently, it has been announced that the world’s first Covid-19 stem cell transplant between an infected patient to a non-infected patient has been successfully carried out, with no transmission of the disease from one patient to another.
This significant breakthrough was made when 5-year-old Sila “Jio” Boonklomjit, donated stem cells from his bone marrow to help save his older sister, 7-year-old Jintanakan, who was born with thalassemia.
According to the American Centre for Disease Control, thalassemia is a blood disorder that is caused ‘when the body doesn’t make enough of a protein called haemoglobin’, resulting in less red blood cells being circulated throughout the body.
In the case of the two siblings, Jintanakan was already prepared to receive the new stem cells after chemotherapy, which is used to remove the body of stem cells that are not producing red blood cells in the bone marrow, in preparation to receive new ones. Consequently, her body’s immune system declined severely.
This race against time was further compounded by the fact that finding a compatible stem cell donor that isn’t genetically related is rather slim, with a 1 in 20,000-50,000 chance, said Assoc Prof Dr Usanarat Anurathapan, of the Division of Haematology and Oncology at the Faculty of Medicine in Ramathibodi Hospital, Mahidol University, who performed the procedure.
As such, they had to harvest healthy bone marrow from 5-year-old Sila “Jio” Boonklomjit, who was already a patient infected with Covid-19.
Bear in mind that this procedure, which is complicated in itself, demanded an extra degree of care due to the special circumstances that the team found themselves in with a donor that was Covid-19 positive. Not only did they have to work with Sila in quarantine, they also had to ensure that the stem cells were not contaminated with Covid-19, according to Bangkok Post.
Despite the odds, the procedure was a complete success, with Sila’s stem cells showing no traces of Covid-19 at all, according to NST. After going through the procedure at Ramathibodi Hospital on Tuesday, both siblings pulled through with no complications reported thus far.
To both children, we hope you’ll recover soon and get to live life to the absolute fullest after having overcome such incredible odds!
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