HA NOI — Viet Nam's National Hospital of Paediatrics in Ha Noi has received its first request from a foreigner to treat epidermolysis bullosa (EB), a rare genetic skin disease, according to hospital director Nguyen Thanh Liem.
The doctor said a Romanian man had asked the hospital to treat his 10-month-old son, who suffers from the inherited connective tissue disorder caused by problems with the chemicals that hold layers of skin together.
EB is a genetic disease with an incidence of 1/50,000 in the world. Even with the most intensive care, EB patients usually die before the age of 40 and their quality of life is very poor.
"The disease could absolutely be treated in Viet Nam using stem cell transplant technology," Liem said.
Nguyen Viet Anh, a four-year-old boy from the northern province of Vinh Phuc, was successfully treated for EB at the hospital last September, when he underwent a bone marrow transplant that cured his lethal skin blisters.
Another bone marrow transplant was performed on a second EB patient two months ago, and he has been recovering well.
Viet Nam is the second country in the world to successfully use a stem cell transplant to treat EB, after the method was officially introduced in the US in 2008.
Liem said that the hospital would need to ask for permission from the Health Ministry before it could make the decision about the Romanian boy.
According to the director, the cost for treating each EB patient is very high in the US - it can be up to a million dollars - but in Viet Nam, it's just about US$40,000.
"But the quality of treatment in both countries is equal," Liem said.
If the Romanian boy's case were successful, many other foreigners would come here for EB treatment, he added.
The hospital will soon publish the results of its first stem cell therapy EB treatment in an international medical journal.
"Publication will help attract a great deal of attention from around the world," Liem said. — VNS