Ramathibodi Hospital, in Thailand, successfully administered a bone marrow stem cell transplant from a five-year-old donor, infected with the coronavirus, to his seven-year-old sister afflicted of thalassemia.
Stem cell transplant specialist Dr. Suradet Hong-ing, according to reports, said that the case was challenging as both the donor and the recipient are quite young.
The donor, Sila “Jio” Boonklomjit, who is the younger brother of the recipient of the bone marrow transplant, contracted covid-19 before the operation, doctors discovered.
The recipient and Jio’s older sister, Jintanakan “Jean” Boonklomjit, were born with thalassemia and a weakened immune system.
Thalassemia is a hereditary disorder that limits the blood’s ability to carry oxygen and affects an estimated 1 percent of all Thais.
Suchai Boonklomjit, the children’s father, said at the operation’s success:
“It’s as if my daughter is reborn and gets a new life.”
Dr. Suradet highlighted that the operation was a difficult one.
Firstly, Jean found trouble in finding a compatible donor, leading the doctor and the family to settle on Jio as her last option.
The doctor disclosed that finding a compatible stem cell donor is about one in 20,000 to 50,000.
Dr. Suradet, when they exhausted every means to find a donor, said:
“So, Nong Jeo’s stem cells were the only hope.”
The young age of both siblings also made the operation extremely complicated.
In addition, Jean’s immune system was also compromised due to chemotherapies.
Jio, on the other hand, had to be placed under quarantine as he had tested positive for the virus.
Doctors believe that Jio contracted the virus from his mother. The father of the children said:
“As the time for the procedure was approaching, we got the bad news that Nong Jio and my wife were both infected with covid-19, so they were all isolated from one another. It was the worst time for us, but we were relieved that our family was under the care of the medical team.”