A 55-year-old man in Pune has stayed infection-free for six months after receiving blood stem cells from his COVID-positive son for a severe form of blood cancer, according to a report by The Times of India.
The concerned doctor at Deenanath Mangeshkar Hospital has said that this could imply that the virus does not transmit through blood, even though haematologists have advised against blood donations by actively infected people as a precautionary measure.
The Union government guidelines state that blood can be collected by a person who has recovered from COVID-19 and it has been 28 days after hospital discharge or home isolation.
In the present case, the man’s bone marrow had been completely damaged due to chemotherapy, which necessitated an urgent surgery. His son was found to be a fit donor but developed a mild fever a day before the transplant. The donor was then tested COVID positive. There was no other option, considering the urgency of the situation, according to to the doctors treating him.
Dr Sameer Melinkeri, haemotologist and director of bone and marrow transplant at the hospital, said, “The patient was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia in January this year. He was admitted for a bone marrow transplant. An emergency bone marrow transplant is what he urgently needed.” The transplant couldn’t have been delayed as the bone marrow was already destroyed.
“You need to have a Human leukocyte antigen matched donor. It is very difficult to find outside the family. Finding an unrelated donor is a long process,” he added.
“We had no choice but to use the donor’s cells despite knowing his COVID infective status.Sameer Melinkeri
The patient had been monitored for symptoms and tested for COVID-19 after the transplant. But he did not develop the infection. Melinkeri said, “It has been six months now. The patient is doing well.”
Experts quoted in the report have said that it may be possible that there was insufficient virus in the bone marrow cells of the donor, which is why the infection couldn’t transmit. It is well known that the virus is rarely detected in blood, and that the viral load is normally high in the throat and lungs of a healthy person with COVID infection. The situation, however, may be different when large quantities and multiple such transfusions are required.
(With inputs from The Times of India)