The first baby in China, and probably the world, to have received umbilical cord blood to combat a rare genetic defect has recovered well and will leave the hospital soon.
The baby received the umbilical blood stem cells on July 31 at the Children's Hospital of Fudan University in Shanghai, when she was 6 months old.
On Wednesday the hospital held a celebration for Zhao Jiaxin, now 10 and a half months old, ahead of her being discharged to go home in the next few days.
"There's no report of umbilical cord blood being used for patients with inflammatory bowel disease with IL-10 RA defect, which the girl was diagnosed with, across the world so far," said Zhai Xiaowen, director of the hospital's hematology department.
"Most reports about the treatment of the disease have been through bone marrow transplantation."
"Compared to bone marrow transplantation, umbilical cord blood injections don't do any harm to the donor and use the precious blood that is discarded after a woman gives birth," she said.
There are abundant blood-forming stem cells in umbilical cord blood, and doctors say they have proved valuable in treating immune deficiencies and malignant blood ailments.
Baby Zhao Jiaxin no longer needs to get her nutrition supply by injection, and can drink 60-milliliters of infant formula milk once every two hours. "She's gaining weight from 2.7 kgs to 4.15 kgs and the frequency of her defecation has become normal.
"It's a miracle of life," said Huang Ying, director of the digestive health department of the hospital.
Zhao was born in rural Zhoukou, Henan province, on Jan 26. When she was one week old, she suffered severe diarrhoea with fever, vomiting and inflammation.
Treatments at hospitals in several cities were in vain and her parents finally took her to the Shanghai hospital, where she was diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease caused by a genetic defect.
The only remedy was umbilical cord blood stem cells to make up for the defects and control the disease, and luckily the hospital found a blood match for her at the Shanghai Cord Blood Bank.
"Blood tests after the transplantation showed that 98.6 per cent of the stem cells transfused have been working and the originally defective genes have become normal.
She also weathered the storm of rejection and complications," Huang said.
The infant's parents rented an apartment close to the hospital for follow-up treatments and one further operation.
"The only thing we want to say is thanks, first to the medical teams from various departments of the hospital that helped our baby finally overcome the rare illness, and also to the hospital's social work department who raised more than 300,000 yuan (S$66,800) to relieve our economic burden and make her salvation come true," said Ji Jianyuan, Zhao's mother.
Several doctors said the unconditional trust and co-operation from Zhao's parents helped them avoid concerns or delays in decision-making in their unique treatment to save the child.
"A doctor-patient relationship of mutual trust and co-operation is a key factor, and sometimes decisive in the treatment and recovery of a patient," said Huang Guoying, head of the hospital.