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Bahrain: Two chronic sickle cell disease patients in Bahrain could get a lifeline with their cases being assessed by a visiting expert for advanced treatment, it has emerged.

More than 20 sickle cell patients benefited from the services of Dr Ayad Ahmed Hussein, a haematology and clinical immunology consultant at the King Hussein Cancer Centre, Amman, who was in Bahrain last week.

He examined almost 50 patients suffering from various genetic blood diseases at Salmaniya Medical Complex (SMC), as part of the Health Ministry’s programme of specialist medical consultants visiting the country, under the directives of His Royal Highness Prime Minister Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa.

“We are studying bone marrow transplant possibilities for two chronic sickle cell sufferers,” SMC genetic blood diseases consultant Dr Jaffar Al Tooq told the GDN.

The only potentially curative therapy for sickle cell disease is allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplant (HSCT) also called bone marrow transplant which boosts the production of healthy red blood cells.

“This was Dr Hussein’s second visit to Bahrain and he is expected to return next month.

“The expert in stem cell and bone marrow transplantation held consultations for blood diseases patients including thalassaemia, while a special clinic was held for sickle cell patients for two days.

“He met more than 20 sickle cell patients at the genetic blood disease centre including two chronic patients who are suffering from sickling in the brain and eyes.

“The two are in their 20s and we recommended these patients to Dr Hussein for bone marrow transplant, and a study to confirm their fitness to undergo the procedure is under process.”

He noted that the bone marrow transplant procedures were “exhaustive” and time-consuming.

“It is rare that we can conclude the procedures as positive as the process of determining the patient’s fitness for bone marrow transplant is lengthy and exhaustive.

“We need to see if the patient is healthy enough as most often they suffer from strokes from sickling in the brain.

“Another tedious process is finding a matching donor from the family who is neither a patient nor a carrier. This is very rare and this process usually takes at least two months.

“However, we have initiated the process and we are hopeful that we will be able to finalise it by next month when Dr Hussein returns. If positive, the two will be sent to Amman for the transplant.”

Dr Al Tooq said the expert’s visit was timely as most sickle cell fatalities occur during August.

“In the past years we have seen that the most number of deaths from sickle cell complications occurred during August, while it was almost nil during December.

“So it is the heat and dehydration which people need to be made aware of and Dr Hussein during his clinics spoke extensively to the patients of the need to be careful during this month.”

Meanwhile, SMC diagnostic affairs deputy chief Dr Raja Al Yusuf said that patients seeking to book appointments with Dr Hussein next month can contact the genetic blood disease centre.

Eighteen Bahrainis have died this year so far from complications of the blood disease.

This compares with 31 during the whole of last year and 46 in 2014.

Sickle cell sufferers have abnormally shaped forms of haemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen to the body’s tissues.

The disorder decreases life expectancy and is known to increase the risk of various life-threatening complications.

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