KUALA LUMPUR: A year ago, Muhammad Yusuff Iskandar Mohd Hambali was at death’s door, his one-year-old body devastated by a severe lung infection he had been battling for five months.
Today he is a happy, healthy boy, thanks to a procedure known as haploidentical bone marrow transplantation.
The reason why Muhammad Yusuff was so ill was because his immune system was almost non-existent.
His is one of the rare cases of severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID), also known as “bubble boy disease”.
The only cure for this condition is a bone marrow transplant, failing which such patients usually do not survive past the age of two.
However, only siblings are a possible match to donate bone marrow and Muhammad Yusuff was an only child then.
His condition was also too critical to wait for a match to be found in international stem cell registries.
Fortunately, University Malaya Medical Centre (UMMC) senior consultant paediatric oncologist Prof Dr Hany Mohd Ariffin was ready to try out the haploidentical bone marrow transplant for the first time in UMMC.
Speaking to the media at the first anniversary celebration of Muhammad Yusuff’s transplant in UMMC, Prof Dr Hany explained that everyone has certain immunological fingerprints, known as human leukocyte antigens (HLAs).
“Previously, you needed to match 10 out of 10 HLAs between the donor and the patient.
“But now, even if you are half-matched (five out of 10), we can do the transplant,” she said.
She added that doctors can now use certain chemotherapy drugs to manipulate the unmatched HLAs so that the patient’s body does not reject them.
This means that Muhammad Yusuff’s parents were eligible to donate their bone marrow to him, which his father Mohd Hambali Din @ Ismail, 34, did.
The sports science and physical education teacher said that he and his wife never lost hope as they knew that similar procedures performed in other countries had succeeded.
“We never gave up. We trusted Prof Hany wholeheartedly,” said his wife Aduratun Nasyihin Mokhtar, 30.
Aside from Muhammad Yusuff, another baby boy with myelodysplastic syndrome underwent the same procedure eight months ago and is currently doing well, according to Prof Dr Hany.
“To the best of my knowledge, Muhammad Yusuff’s is the first successful haploidentical bone marrow transplant done in the country,” she said.
For more information, see Fit For Life on April 16.