7-year-old HIV-positive boy beats thalassemia
Beating all the odds, including getting HIV infection, a seven-year-old boy has managed to defeat thalassemia major—an inherited blood disorder characterised by decreased haemoglobin production
Mumbai: Beating all the odds, including getting HIV infection, a seven-year-old boy has managed to defeat thalassemia major—an inherited blood disorder characterised by decreased haemoglobin production.
The Nagpur boy successfully underwent bone marrow transplant (BMT) at Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital (KDAH) and was discharged last week. According to the doctors, the boy was diagnosed with the disorder when he was at the age of four months and had to undergo regular blood transfusions as a part of treatment. However, during the blood transfusions, he contracted HIV.
“It was in December 2020 when the hospital held a camp in Nagpur and found that his father was a complete match for him for a bone marrow transplant. For a 100% match for a BMT, the chances with parents are less than 1%, but in this case, it was a 100% match,” Dr Santanu Sen, paediatric haematologist and BMT physician, said.
However, before the parents could start the work up to the BMT, the Covid-19 pandemic began and the surgery had to be postponed. “We continued with blood transfusions in Nagpur as going to Mumbai was not possible,” the boy’s father said.
It was in April 2022 during a routine screening that the parents found the boy was HIV positive. “For thalassemia patients, yearly screening is done to check for possible blood infections. We were shocked when the HIV reports came positive. Both me and my wife are negative. It has to be because of a blood transfusion,” the father added.
With the HIV positive status, the plan for BMT was further delayed as doctors were focused on getting the HIV viral load in control.
“While most of the centres shy away from taking HIV patients for BMT due to the high risk involved, we decided to go ahead with it. Our infectious disease expert worked to bring down the HIV viral load. Once it was in control, we decided to do the BMT on January 5,” Dr Sen said.
The boy was kept under observation for six weeks. “He is doing well and free of thalassemia major. He will continue with his HIV medicines,” Dr Sen added.
The doctors now plan to present the case in a medical journal. “It was a high-risk transplant making it India’s first successful case,” the doctor said.
Dr Shweta Bansal, senior BMT consultant, haemato oncology at SRCC Children’s Hospital, KJ Somaiya Hospital, said HIV positivity in patients undergoing blood transfusion has become very rare.
“We do not see HIV positivity in our patients undergoing blood transfusion anymore as a lot of blood testing happens. We also recommend certified lab-tested blood banks. It is good that the boy underwent a successful BMT despite being HIV positive,” she said.