Vietnam "cures' first blister patient with marrow transplant

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Nguyen Viet Anh with blisters on the skin before the treatment (L) and after 40 days of getting a bone marrow stem cell transplant (R).

Vietnam has seen its first successful bone marrow stem cell transplant to cure lethal skin blisters, saving the life of a four- year-old boy, a Hanoi doctor said.

Nguyen Viet Anh of Vinh Phuc Province has been saved from his Epidermolysis Bullosa (EB) condition after 40 days "of worries and expectations", said doctor Nguyen Thanh Liem, professor of surgery and director of Vietnam's National Hospital of Pediatrics.

"So far the outcome is good. No more blisters on the skin today. Hematology tests returned in the normal ranges," Liem said Tuesday.

The boy's mother is quite happy with the result, he added.

This is also the second successful case worldwide in which a bone marrow transplant has been used to treat EB. The first was given to a two-year-old boy by experts at the University of Minnesota.

Anh, who left intensive care unit to a general ward on Wednesday, had been taken to different health institutes since he was born, but there was no hint that a treatment was available for his strange condition.

The boy was born blazing red with ulceration in two hands and no skin or nails on the big toes, his family said.

He was diagnosed with the inherited connective tissue disease EB, which causes blisters in the skin and mucosal membranes.

Its severity ranges from mild to lethal but it always involves a lot of pains as the skin becomes extremely fragile.

More blisters appeared as Anh grew up and the skin somehow formed a tight covering over his hands and feet.

Dr. Liem said the little boy has been very strong about fighting his painful condition.

"When the doctors discussed the transplant with a hope to ease his condition, the boy immediately urged his parents to take it," he was quoted by news website Dan Tri as saying.

The transplant began on September 19. Anh received bone marrow from his 10-year-old sister and "he almost never cried during the whole process," the doctor said.

He said the hospital has used bone marrow stem cell transplant for curing various diseases.

The procedure is difficult, especially with the skin not attaching, but they decided to try as the child would not survive with what was going on anyway, Liem said.

After the transplant, Anh's mother said around 80 percent of the blisters have gone while the new ones were smaller and healed faster.

The boy, who before the transplant was diagnosed to have 22 percent of his body burned, now has just 7.5 percent of his skin damaged.

He was standing in front of the people and cameramen as the announcement was made Wednesday.

Liem said the boy will continue to be treated for the next six months, but the first step has been a success.

"We have the right to give hope to more transplants for 28 other children, who are suffering the severe condition and are very likely to die," he said.

"Their life quality can be changed," he added.

EB has no ultimate cure and the carriers usually die young from skin cancer or blood infection. Doctors and scientists worldwide try various methods to ease the pain and injuries.

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