Nearly 49.7 per cent of patients who need a bone marrow transplant (BMT) in Pakistan die because they do not have a donor with a match, according to hematologist and child specialist Dr Saquib Ansari.
Fifty per cent to 75 per cent of eligible patients, worldwide, who need a BMT, do not have an HLA identical sibling donor.
Dr Ansari said on Wednesday that the scarcity existed in Pakistan, despite a large family size with an average of 4.6 siblings per household.
Alternatives are volunteer marrow donors or umbilical cord blood banks, which may eventually help children suffering from a plastic anaemia, lymphoma, leukemia and thalassemia. “But there are no cord blood bank in the public or private sector and we need to set up these banks and maintain an inventory of over 30,000 donors or bags,” he said.
This is the only way to create a chance for 25 to 35 per cent of patients to find a matched donor.
Mothers can donate bone marrow to their children and this is the only option left for doctors in Pakistan, said the doctor, adding, “This is also done in China, Japan and Korea.”
This kind of a transplant is known as the Haplo Transplant and may be available once Pakistani surgeons are trained by the Hyogo Medical University Transplant Programme in Japan. A transplant team from the National Institute of Blood Diseases, Karachi will be leaving for Japan within the next few weeks, he added.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 15th, 2011.