UBTH Records Another Breakthrough In Sickle Cell Treatment

sickle cellA major medical breakthrough was achieved in the country weekend when the management of the University of Benin Teaching Hospital (UBTH) completely drained infected red blood cells from a 27-year-old sickle cell anemia patient and replaced it with un-infected ones.

Breaking the news at a press conference, the chief medical director (CMD) of the hospital, Professor Michael Ibadin, who was visibly elated at the feat, said the success of the procedure was made possible through a collaboration with the University of Basel Switzerland, which provided the technical support and the machine, known as Cobe Spectra that drains the infected blood through one arm while simultaneously replacing it with uninfected blood through the other arm.

Prof Ibadin explained:  “The same department that championed the breakthrough in the stem cell transplant some two years ago is again in the news and we need them to share it with the members of the public. As adults, we have about six litres of blood in us, then that blood is divided into two; a part is liquid and the other parts are cells. These cells are of different types, some are red, some are white, while some are in other colours.

“The red blood cells are the ones that make blood red. For sicklers, the problem is located in the red blood cells, especially some of them who survive long enough, they may have major challenges and these challenges will have to do with the fact that they can have stroke, then some of them can affect the brain. Other parts of the body may also suffer but what we have achieved here is total replacement of the entire red blood cells in an individual who is alive and replace them completely with another type of cell”.

Head of the team, Dr Nasakhase Bazuaye, who had undergone a one-year training in Switzerland, affirmed that Nigeria had the highest number of sickle cell carriers in the world, with about three per cent of Nigerians suffering from the condition.

He said: “What we do is to remove the entire blood from the body through one hand arm and put in fresh blood from the other arm. When we do this total red cell exchange, we remove the blood and it is replaced. The machine is such that it doesn’t cause much discomfort, as it is taking away blood from one side and replacing it immediately from the other side. It can also be done for children without harm. We have successfully performed the first one for a 27-year-old patient who is a friend of the department: he is a Master’s degree students in one of the universities and we feel he is also very important in pioneering this feat. He had severe crisis; we removed almost five litres of blood from him and replaced them an equivalent amount.

“It has stopped his pains and crisis and that will relieve him for a long time. In Europe, some people do it twice a year”, he added.

On the cost, Bazuaye said payment was mainly for the blood used adding that if there were enough donors, the patient would not pay much to undergo the procedure.

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