For the first time ever, an international conference dealing with immune system and blood clotting issues was hosted by Israel. The conference was organized and led by Dr. Lilach Bonstein, Director of the Blood Bank Laboratory at Rambam Health Care Campus.
Dr. Lilach Bonstein, Director of the Blood Bank Laboratory at Rambam Health Care Campus who also serves as Director of the Platelet and Neutrophil Immunology Laboratory, is the first Israeli to head a unique, two-day online medical and international conference that addresses the need to identify and treat diseases and failures of the immune system and blood clotting. Representatives of blood banks and central laboratories from more than 40 countries around the world took part in the recently-held conference.
This conference—held now for the 16th time—originated in Paris, France, in 1990. Among the participants were experts from Europe, Japan, the United States, Canada, Brazil, and Australia, and included several neighboring countries with whom Israel has no diplomatic relations.
Among the many studies presented at the conference was a unique study conducted in the Clinical Hematology Laboratory at Rambam in collaboration with Dr. Doua Bakri, a pediatric hematologist at the Rebecca Sieff Hospital in Safed, who found a link between pediatric COVID-19 patients and the formation of dangerous antibodies that destroy their immune systems. The results of the study have generated great interest among experts worldwide, and will be made available to members of the medical community so that they can tailor the right treatment for children who have contracted the coronavirus and become ill.
The Platelet and Neutrophil Immunology Laboratory at Rambam headed by Dr. Bonstein is the only laboratory in the country that specializes in the detection and identification of antibodies leading to immune system failure and blood clotting. The presence of the antibodies in the blood can lead to the destruction of the cells of the coagulation system (platelets) and in their absence, the patient is exposed to the danger of life-threatening bleeding in the lungs and brain. One of the laboratory’s areas of specialty is the identification of these antibodies during pregnancy, which can cross the placental barrier, reach the fetus, and lead to cerebral hemorrhage. Identifying these antibodies in the laboratory is therefore critical for preventing life-threatening bleeding in pregnant women, helping with the decision regarding suitable treatment for saving the life of the fetus.
In one of the conference sessions, Dr. Bonstein presented the story of a young woman from a Bedouin tribe in Israel’s Negev Desert whose first and second pregnancies ended in fetal death. Only after the parents’ blood samples were sent to Rambam was a rare antibody previously known primarily in the Far East found in the mother. Locating the rare antibody helped diagnose and tailor the most appropriate treatment for the mother, which resulted in a healthy third pregnancy, at the end of which, a healthy baby was born.
Recalls Dr. Bonstein, “Over 400 participants from dozens of countries around the world took part in a conference that dealt with a very unique medical niche for blood banks around the world, through which advanced detection testing allows us to tailor treatments as never before. I am proud to head this important conference, to represent Israel in general and Rambam Health Care Campus in particular – both as leaders in the field and to present our extensive, advanced work. I thank the hospital management for leading the important medical work in this area.”