Homozygous beta thalassemia is one of many types of beta thalassemia syndromes or hereditary blood disorders caused by a gene deficiency. The disorder causes patients to produce defective hemoglobin, the protein that enables red blood cells to deliver oxygen to various parts of the body. Beta thalassemia comes in major and minor types. While minor thalassemia may cause mild anemia similar to iron-deficiency anemia, major thalassemia, also known as the homozygous form of the disease, may cause severe or Cooley’s anemia, which requires regular blood transfusions.
Homozygous beta thalassemia affects newborns and causes various symptoms including slow growth, fatigue, fever, diarrhea, and intestinal problems. Considering the overall health condition of newborns and the severity of the condition, this disease is considered life threatening and requires specialist care.
Parents of babies with homozygous beta thalassemia are greatly relieved to know that the special care their babies need is now available in Southeast Asia. Many patients in the past had to be brought all the way to the US or UK where parents need to spend a lot for their babies’ long-term health management. Now, however, they can go to Southeast Asia, where the quality of healthcare is the same in developed countries but the price is so much lower. The lower cost of healthcare in the region makes it easier for patients to pay for continuous blood transfusions their babies need.
But the best thing that Southeast Asia offers to patients with homozygous beta thalassemia is a chance at stem cell and bone marrow transplants, which are extremely expensive in developed countries. However, Singapore, Thailand, and Malaysia are investing in new equipment and well-trained specialists allowing their hospitals to offer advanced stem cell therapy to achieve improved treatment outcomes.
If a patient does not qualify for stem cell or bone marrow transplant, other potential treatments may be considered. These include long-term gene therapy to treat the problem at its source. With this treatment, a normal beta-chain gene is used to replace the defective gene. All these advanced treatments are now available in Southeast Asia.