Dr Ahmad Bin Kalban Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: No deaths or new cases attributed to Thalassaemia have been reported in Dubai in 2018, said a top official at Dubai Health Authority (DHA).

The zero caseload is proof positive of the success of the Dubai Thalassaemia Centre’s efforts in reducing the incidence of this inherited blood disorder which affects 8.5 per cent of the local population in the UAE.

To reduce the incidence of the disease the DHA also plans to conduct bone marrow transplants soon.

Dr Ahmad Bin Kalban, CEO of the newly established specialised health services sector within DHA, told Gulf News: “In 2017, we had one case beta Thalassaemia major from Dubai and seven cases from other emirates. In 2017 at the Dubai Thalassaemia Centre only one death was reported due to the disease. This means cases of Thalassaemia major have declined because of effective round-the-clock help provided by our centre to patients.”

The latest good news is part of a declining caseload in recent years, he said.

“The mortality rate has been gradually declining over the years. Successful education of people through community outreach programmes. premarital genetic screening, new therapies to take out iron toxicity, bone marrow transplants have drastically helped reduce the incidence of Thalassaemia in Dubai,” said Dr Kalban.

What is Thalassaemia?

Thalassaemia is an inherited blood disorder that affects an indivudal’s ability to produce haemoglobin and red blood cells and affects 8.5 per cent of the local population in the UAE.

If a patient does not require blood transfusions for the disease and can be managed with iron supplements, the person is said to have Thalassaemia Minor.

If a patient requires blood transfusion once a month, then he or she is said to have a Thalassaemia Major gene. The Dubai Thalesssaemia centre was established in 1989 in Latifa Hospital and the current building was inaugurated in 1995 in response to the growing demand and increasing number of patients.

Attributing the success of thalassaemia control to the centre’s advanced skills and methodologies, Dr Kalban added: “In 2017, the total number of annual visits to the centre was 8,592 to both day care and clinics. In the day care, currently there are 429 patients. No mortality was reported in transfusion-dependent thalassaemia in 2018 while one mortality case was reported in 2017. One mortality in sickle cell disease patients was reported in 2017, and none in 2018. In 2017, The centre also conducted 71 disease awareness activities for the community.”

New technique adopted for reduction of iron toxicity

Iron toxicity is the major cause of death and at the Dubai Thalassaemia Centre, they have developed a new kind of peripheral transfusion system for iron chelation that does not allow iron toxicity in patients and it allows flushing out iron seven days a week, thereby extending the lifeline of these patients.

Bone marrow transplants to be carried out in Dubai

One of the only ways to cure Thalassaemia major is a successful bone marrow transplant which patients currently travel abroad for. About 23 Thalassaemia patients underwent bone marrow transplant in 2017 to cure their disease.

Dr Kalban said that the specialised health care services sector at the DHA was undergoing expansion and very soon the Dubai Cord Blood and Research Centre located within the Latifa Hospital campus would be performing bone marrow transplants.

“Bone marrow transplants can cure Thalassaemia Major, Sickle Cell Anaemia, leukaemia, aplastic anaemia and so far parents have been travelling abroad for these treatments. Now the cord blood centre will be carrying out transplants in collaboration with the Dubai Hospital Oncology department. This will bring down the expenses of the bone marrow transplant considerably with the expertise being made available locally.”