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Nigeria Makes Breakthrough in Sickle Cell Treatment

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The Nigerian medical sector has achieved a new milestone. Medical experts at the University of Benin Teaching Hospital (UBTH) have successfully drained infected red blood cells from a 27-year old patient and replaced it with uninfected ones.

Professor Michael Ibadin, Chief Medical Director of the hospital, made the announcement to pressmen shortly after the feat. He noted that the hospital received support from the University of Basel Switzerland, which provided the technical support and machine (cobe spectra) that was used in draining the infected blood from the patient while simultaneously replacing with uninfected blood.

“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.”

Dr Nasakhase Bazuaye, head of the team that conducted the transfusion, had undergone a one-year training in Switzerland. He said Nigeria has the highest record of sickle cell cases in the world with about three percent of its citizens suffering from the condition.

“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 with 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.

 

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