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Race against time to fund 'bubble' boy's life-saving surgery

A MAJOR fundraising effort is under way to help send an eight-month-old baby boy suffering from a rare genetic condition for a vital, life-saving operation.

Manil Blida needs a bone marrow transplant from his sister Manel (5), as he lives with Severe Combined Immunodeficiency (SCID), a disease where the immune system is impaired due to a defective gene. The condition is also known as "bubble boy" disease because its victims are extremely vulnerable to infectious diseases.

The Blida family lives in Algeria, but they must travel to the UK to have the operation, which they say costs €200,000.

Sal Kitous, who lives in Tullamore, Co Offaly, and whose nephew is Manil's father, has started a fundraising campaign to raise money for the live-saving procedure.

"The problem is it's a race against time," Mr Kitous said. "His brother has already died from the same cause. So they're not prepared to lose a second child for the same reason."

Mr Kitous has so far raised about €3,500 to help Manil, who lives in a sterilised room at his home in Algerian capital Algiers.

The main symptoms of SCID include an increased susceptibility to a variety of infections, including ear infections, pneumonia or bronchitis, oral thrush -- a type of yeast that multiplies rapidly, creating white, sore areas in the mouth -- and diarrhoea.

Children with untreated SCID rarely live past the age of two, according to the National Human Genome Institute in the US state of Maryland.

Mr Kitous said the life-saving bone marrow operation could not be conducted in Algeria because medics there would not perform it on children younger than four years of age.

Mr Kitous, who owns a restaurant in Tullamore, organised a fundraising event in a Hugh Lynch's Bar in the Co Offaly town on Friday evening.

Anyone who is interested in donating can do so through Tullamore Credit Union, account number 06532101, sort code 991004.

Irish Independent