The only cure for sickle cell anaemia for now is Bone Marrow Transplant (BMT). Hence, the sickle cell patient will live a normal life free from the complications of sickle cell disease; according to Dr Olushola Olowoselu, a consultant haematologist and stem cell transplant physician at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, (LUTH), Idi-Araba, Lagos.
Dr Olowoselu stated this at the media workshop organized by the Sickle Cell Foundation Nigeria (SCFN) as part of activities to commemorate World Sickle Cell Day 2016 with the theme: ‘Bone Marrow Transplant: Cure and Possibilities.’
He however said, the patient’s genotype remains unchanged; he/she can still transmit the affected gene to his offspring.
Explaining further, Olowoselu said, “to transplant the individual with the stem cell, you’re not changing the genotype of that individual, the individual can only live a normal life without complication and symptoms of sickle cell but the individual can transfer sickle cell gene to the offspring if he/she marries an AS or SS individual.
“The indication for transplantation in sickle cell is a patient who has Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA) matched sibling donor and is or less than 16 years. At that age, the patient has not received so much insult on the organs and it can tolerate the process, which is assumed to be complex.”
The haematologist said, the chances of survival for BMT is between 90-95 per cent for now but work is ongoing to make it near 100 per cent.
On the cost of the transplant, he said, it costs N100million in America, 80million in Europe and about N44million in Rome.
To address the issue, Olowoselu said, there is need for systematic comprehensive care programme, starting with neonatal screening for all newborn and early intensive care to prevent mortality and reduce morbidity and organ damage in sickle cell.
In sheer numbers, Nigeria has the largest burden of sickle cell disorder in the whole world. Nigeria’s large population has ensured that over 40 million are healthy carriers of the S gene, with about 150,000 Nigerian children born annually with sickle cell anaemia.