After polio, Haffkine to find a cure for thalassaemia and haemophilia

Updated: Mar 10, 2019, 19:27 IST | Rupsa Chakraborty

The research is in its infancy, but the institute is hoping to provide a cure to thousands of patients across the world

After polio, Haffkine to find a cure for thalassaemia and haemophilia
Haffkine Institute at Parel. Pic/Suresh Karkera

Haffkine Bio-Pharmaceutical Corporation Limited, whose vaccine helped make India polio-free, and helped battle the disease across 45 nations, is going to commence research on a cure for blood-related diseases such as thalassaemia and haemophilia. The research is in its infancy, but the institute is hoping to provide a cure to thousands of patients across the world.

"We have played a major role in eradicating polio in India," said Sampada Mehta, managing director, Haffkine Bio-Pharmaceutical Corporation Limited. "Through UNICEF, we have been supplying the vaccine to over 45 nations. But since the time our country was declared polio-free [in 2014 by WHO], our main resource has stopped. So, we have decided to focus on different research, mostly on thalassaemia and haemophilia."

According to WHO, every year approximately 1,00,000 children with thalassaemia major are born world over, of which 10,000 are born in India. It is estimated that there are about 65,000-67,000 thalassaemia patients in the country.

In India, there are around 19,000 haemophiliac patients with 4,000 patients within Mumbai, who are registered in the Haemophilia Society. Both the diseases are inherited blood disorders. "The research work is still in its infancy. It would be too early to make any official comment," said Mehta.

Dr Chandrakala S, haematologist from KEM Hospital said, "Currently, there is no cure for thalassaemia and haemophilia. For thalassaemia, a person needs to undergo blood transfusion on a regular basis or stem cell transplantation. Patients with mild forms may not need treatment. But, patients with severe forms will have to do so."

Thalassaemia

What are thalassaemia and haemophilia?
Thalassaemia is a blood disorder in which the body makes an abnormal form or inadequate amount of haemoglobin. The disorder results in large numbers of red blood cells being destroyed, which leads to anaemia.

Haemophilia affects blood-clotting abilities. Suddenly, patients start bleeding internally in the joints or in the brain. They need to be immediately given a blood clotting substance to stop the bleeding. Dr VP Anita, consultant haematologist at Jaslok Hospital, said, "A haemophiliac patient, even without getting injured, can start bleeding spontaneously. If a person with internal brain bleeding doesn't get the [coagulation] factors on time, he can also die. Patients who can't afford regular treatment can become permanently disabled."

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