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Life-saving treatment for children

A life-saving bone-marrow transplant may soon be generally available thanks to pioneering surgery at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) in London, UK.

It was first undertaken when five-year-old Michael Wenman, now 12, faced death after his digestive tract was destroyed by an over-active immune system.

The last-resort treatment was so successful that his younger brother Matthew, then aged four, also received it when he too showed similar symptoms.

The recovery of the brothers, from Godalming in Surrey, UK,  has now prompted the hospital to offer bone-marrow transplants to others as a possible cure for intestinal failure.

Dr Neil Shah, consultant paediatric gastroenterologist, said the stem-cell transplant is a last resort that appears to mend the damaged gut and correct the immune system.

He said it could be seen “as a cure rather than a way of controlling the condition. We are starting to slowly assess some more children at the moment who we are struggling to treat by conventional means. This could become an option.”

Dr Shah said a transplant was only suitable for children suffering from a rare type of gut failure that fails to respond to conventional treatments, and is not without risks.

Copyright Press Association 2008