Two foreigners have asked a Vietnamese doctor to treat their children for a congenital skin disease called Epidermolysis Bullosa (EB).
Dr. Nguyen Thanh Liem, director of the Hanoi-based National Hospital of Pediatrics, told online newspaper VnExpress on Monday (May 7) that a Brazilian family had contacted the hospital seeking treatment for their three-year-old child.
On May 1, a Rumanian named Gabriel Bontas also emailed the hospital seeking help for his 10-month-old son, Liem said.
Liem achieved some acclaim last September, after completing his first successful bone marrow transplant to cure a child suffering from EB.
"We are considering their requests and consulting the Health Ministry as well," Liem told Vietweek, two days after performing his third surgery.
Liem said he had emailed the two families, asking them to seek bone marrow stem cells for the transplant.
"The best option is to take the bone marrow stem cells from the patients' siblings because the compatibility level can be up to 100 percent," he said. "Bone marrow stem cells taken from parents peak at 50 percent compatibility."
The National Hospital of Pediatrics has conducted heart surgery on Lao children and provided treatment to expatriate children living in Vietnam. However, this is the first time hospital staff have received treatment requests from outside the country.
According to Liem, treatment costs around US$40,000 in Vietnam, compared to millions of dollars in the US. The disease ranges from mild to lethal, but always involves a lot of pain as the skin becomes extremely fragile.
Children suffering from EB lack type VII collagen, a protein that binds the top layer of skin to the next. Friction "” from a hug to a fall "” can cause tennis ball sized blisters, which often leave behind scabs and scars.
In September 2011, Liem led a team of doctors in performing a successful marrow transplant on four year-old Nguyen Viet Anh using cells taken from his 10 year-old sister.
Forty days after the transplant, Anh's mother said 80 percent of Anh's existing blisters were gone. The fresh ones were smaller and healed faster, she added.
Liem said a biopsy revealed the presence of type VII collagen in Anh's skin, indicating that the child no longer has the disease.
Early this year, Liem performed his second transplant on Le Anh Tu, 3, using marrow taken from his five-year-old sister.
Tu suffered from severe blistering as well as ulceration in his eyes, which could have led to blindness without early treatment.
Tu has reportedly recovered well.
On Tuesday, a third transplant was conducted at the National Hospital of Pediatrics"”this time on a 17-year-old patient.