The Greater Accra Regional Hospital (Ridge Hospital) has admitted its first patient to undergo the first-ever bone marrow transplant procedure in Ghana at the Bone Marrow Transplant (BMT) centre at the facility.
The procedure, which started early this month, has so far had over 60 applicants, with six from the West African sub-region.
The centre usually serves persons living with sickle cell disease (SCD), otherwise known as sickle cell anaemia.
According to the Director of Administration at BMT Ghana, Dr Wisdom Erasmus Boatri, this could be a breakthrough for the medical profession since it was the first of its kind in the sub-region.
He added that when successful, it would change the sickling statuses of SCD patients to either sickling negative patients or sickling carrier patients.
BMT or Blood Stem Cell Transplant is a procedure that replaces the unhealthy blood-forming cells in SCD patients with healthy ones.
It is by far the only known cure for SCD and is mostly used to treat patients with severe SCD in Europe and other parts of the world.
Dr Boatri indicated that the centre had been made successful through a collaboration between the Ghana Health Service, Ministry of Health, the Greater Accra Regional Hospital and BMT Ghana.
He indicated that the entire procedure would take between 30 and 45 days, and this includes admission, pre-surgery procedure, surgery, post-surgery procedures, recovery and monitoring.
Due to the increasing number of patients who have shown interest, in addition to avoiding congestion and ensuring proper monitoring, Dr Boatri noted that the centre would start operations with three patients who would be admitted on a weekly interval.
The entire procedure will cost about $15,000 for a full-match donor which comes from siblings who are sickling negative and $20,000 for a partial-match donor which comes from parents who are mostly carriers.
In the interim, BMT Ghana is giving a $3,000 discount to patients who will be scheduled for the procedure.
Dr Boatri emphasised that the process for a donor match, which is known as Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA), currently costs about €1,200, and is being offered by BMT Ghana for free.
He urged persons living with SCD to take advantage of the programme in order to determine a perfect donor match.
Dr Boatri also noted that there were thousands of children suffering from sickle cell disease in Africa, and “Sub-Saharan Africa has a dire need for centres capable of offering a permanent solution to this crippling disease, the only one being bone marrow transplantation”.
Sickle cell disease
The SCD is an inherited blood disorder that affects children, mostly of African descent.
The condition arises from a genetic defect that alters the structure of haemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying protein found in red blood cells.