Baby Asya Polatli arriving at Makarios Hospital in Nicosia, Cyprus. Photo: Yeni Duzen

Turkish Cypriot ‘SMA baby’ admitted at Makarios

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An eleven-month old Turkish Cypriot baby, Asya Polatli, was admitted at Makarios children’s hospital on Monday to undergo a rare gene treatment for spinal muscular atrophy (SMA).

The little girl and her parents had earlier been flown in from Turkey by air ambulance, where she had been hospitalised for rapid loss of muscle mass.

Asya’s family announced through a Facebook support page that their child had arrived at the Makarios Hospital at noon and would be undergoing the necessary medical assessments before she is given the designated treatment.

Baby Asya is to be administered with Zolgensma, a gene therapy used to treat children with SMA less than two years old. The medicine is administered in a one-time-only dose.

As this treatment costs more than €2 mln, the family and volunteers had launched fundraisers in a bid to raise the full amount.

The plight of Baby Asya, as she is now known in the north, has united the Turkish Cypriot community in recent months. A massive campaign tried to raise the money needed, but had could not reach the necessary amount.

Efforts in the north are ongoing with a concert scheduled for Tuesday night in support of baby Asia.

After the issue was brought to the attention of the Cyprus government, it was announced that the Republic would pay for Asya’s treatment.

Health Minister Michalis Hadjipantelas announced last Friday that the Republic would undertake the cost of the infant’s treatment. According to Hadjipantelas, health authorities had already placed the order for the drug needed.

According to the Turkish Cypriot press, the issue was brought to the attention of Foreign Affairs Minister Nicos Christodoulides and President Nicos Anastasiades by Sener Elcil, the general secretary of the elementary teachers’ union KTOS.

Elcil had sent letters to both the minister and the President, asking for the Republic to step in to save the girl’s life.

SMA is a group of hereditary diseases that progressively destroys motor neurons in the brain stem and spinal cord that control essential skeletal muscle activity such as speaking, walking, breathing and swallowing, leading to muscle weakness and atrophy.