Teens eligible as donors

South African teenagers aged 16 and 17 will now be able to become bone marrow stem cell donors. The South African Bone Marrow Registry (SABMR) received the green light to register teens as donors.

The registry body received approval from its Clinical Governance Committee and board members as well as the National Health Department to allow teens aged 16 and 17 to become bone marrow stem cell donors.

This followed recent changes in legislation and advances in stem cell donation that have allowed registries to reduce the age limit of donors.

South Africa now joins the United Kingdom (UK) in this move with the latter becoming one of the first countries to do so. The SABMR is the largest registry in the country.

Dr Charlotte Ingram, Medical Director of the SABMR, said it was a landmark ruling as the change in policy will contribute to saving more lives.

“Research shows that younger donors are associated with better survival rates for patients following a stem cell transplant. It’s a step towards further enhancing the registry towards a younger and more ethnically diverse pool for blood cancer patients and others in need of a bone marrow transplant.”

Previously, teenagers had to wait until they were 18 to join the SABMR. While it is not required, it is important for the SABMR to involve parents and address any questions or concerns they may have regarding the procedure and what it entails.

Once youth have applied online: https://sabmr.co.za/become-a-donor/, they will be contacted to discuss the easiest way of dispatching and collecting swab kits. The only initial sample that is required is a cheek swab.

Currently, 18-25 year olds only account for 6,8% of the SABMR registry, but with increased awareness of bone marrow donation among young people the figure should increase substantially.

“Studies tell us that generation WE (aged 14-20) and generation Z (21-25) are a lot more self-aware, socially-res­ponsible and globally-minded than previous generations. They are more concerned about tackling social issues and want to roll up their sleeves and make a difference. Young people today are often drivers of social change movements and we look forward to engaging them,” said Ingram. Currently the SABMR has 74 000 donors on registry.

If you are between the ages of 16 and 45 and want to become a donor, contact the SABMR on 021-447-8638 or email: donors@sabmr.co.za. Financial donations can also be made via www.sabmr.co.za/donate.

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