A female baby born in the Indian city of Nagpur is being widely touted as the country’s first ever “Harlequin baby,” the New Indian Express newspaper reports. The baby, born with a severe genetic disorder does not have external skin and has several internal organs missing.
Images of the newborn child have been spread through social media networks, and some of our readers may find the images disturbing. As evident from the images, the palms, fingers, and toes of the baby have barely developed. The baby has also been born blind because the eyes have not fully developed and look like reddish swabs. The baby also doesn’t have a fully developed nose and breathes through two holes where the nose would have been. Both the ears are also missing.
— RaajjeTV (@Raajje_tv) June 12, 2016
The Harlequin baby was delivered at the Lata Mangeshkar hospital in the city and is the first child to a farmer couple from the town of Wadi. According to doctors who were involved in the delivery, the chances of survival of the baby remain uncertain. The team of doctors who were part of the rare delivery included pediatrician Dr. Yash A. Banait and gynecologist Dr. Prachi Dixit.
Meanwhile, after the images of the child were widely shared, the doctors and the staff members who were seen in the images faced widespread criticism for being insensitive towards the parents of the baby. In one of the images, a doctor is seen smiling with the baby in his arms. Others have asked whether the doctors took permission from the baby’s parents before sharing the images on social media.
i wish they’d stop publishing pictures of that harlequin baby :/
i wonder if the parents consented.
— Sandhya Menon (@TheRestlessQuil) June 13, 2016
— navaneeth (@kichus) June 13, 2016
The baby is currently in the ICU and is being tended to by a team of doctors who are trying to save the baby’s life. They are also doing several tests and investigations on the baby owing to the rare condition.
According to Dr. Yash Banait, patients with the “Harlequin baby” condition have severely cracked skin or, at times, are born without a skin. The skin, which also happens to be the largest organ of the human body, does the vital job of maintaining our body temperature and protecting it from infections. This process is not possible for babies born with the condition, and as a result, they are very prone to infections.
According to Dr. Banait, there were reports of another baby with the same condition born in the neighboring state of Chhattisgarh back in 2014. However, the baby, born in the district of Bastar, died before doctors could verify that the child really suffered from the condition.
— Mynahcare (@mynahcare) June 13, 2016
The Harlequin baby condition is medically known as Harlequin-type ichthyosis. Other names for the condition include harlequin ichthyosis, hyosis fetalis, keratosis diffusa fetalis, harlequin fetus, and ichthyosis congenita gravior.
The first case in recorded history of a Harlequin baby was in the year 1750 when a baby born in South Carolina showed symptoms consistent with the condition. After that, there have been only a few dozen cases of Harlequin babies in the U.S. The overall rate of incidence for Harlequin ichthyosis is one in 300,000 births.
While most babies born with the condition die soon, a child with the condition born to a Pakistani couple in 1984 lived till she was 24. The girl was known as Nusrit Shaheen. Another fairly recent case of a Harlequin baby was reported from South Africa in the year 2013.