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UK man seeks risky treatment in India

A father of four from Coventry, UK, is due to travel to India to seek a potentially dangerous treatment for multiple sclerosis (MS).

Zhahid Habib, aged 43, was diagnosed with MS in 2008. The condition is lifelong, though symptoms can be managed through a number of therapies with varying levels of success. As a neurological condition, the symptoms can vary depending on the particular nerves affected, with a range of different effects to both mental health state and movement capacity.

The immune system in those with MS is dysfunctional. Where it would usually be used in fighting off infection, it begins to attack the myelin sheaths surrounding nerve cells. This causes disrupted neuronal signalling, leading to the negative effects typical of the disease.

A radical therapy for the condition has been developed called hematopoietic stem cell transplant (HSCT) and has shown some success. There has, however, been considerable side effects associated with the process and some have even led to death. Around one in every hundred patients who undergo the treatment have died. Severe side effects associated with the chemotherapy can cause hair loss, fever, nausea and infertility.

Habib has opted to seek treatment in India due to greater access to the treatment. In the UK, the procedure is available, though in very limited numbers and only under a very strict set of circumstances regarding disease progression.

Habib’s wife, Sam Begum claimed that the family did not want to seek treatment in the UK as a waiting time of around two years could leave Habib all but immobile before treatment even began. To this end the family sought treatment in India.

The family acknowledge that the risks are great, as despite the claimed fifty to sixty percent success rate, many individuals find their symptoms worsen following treatment, along with the prospect of mortality. “It’s so high risk but this is the only option. I will have to watch him get worse and worse and be permanently in a wheelchair, bed-ridden or dead – because that is the prognosis,” said Ms Begum.


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