Bone marrow registrations slow amid COVID

TOKYO (Jiji Press) — Bone marrow donor registrations in Japan for use to treat blood cancer and leukemia patients have been slow in recent years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a Japanese nonprofit organization promoting such registrations told Jiji Press on Sunday.

Donor registrations started in Japan in 1992, growing at an annual pace of 11,000 and 24,000 since 2010, according to the Japan Marrow Donor Registry Promotion Conference and others.

Registrations increased by nearly 34,000 in 2019 when Japanese swimming star Rikako Ikee revealed her leukemia diagnosis.

But registration promotional activities have been hampered by restrictions to contain the spread of COVID-19, including orders to stay at home, since the country’s first infection case was confirmed in January 2020.

The pace of increase in the number of donor registrations slowed significantly to 1,919 in 2020 before moderately recovering to 9,478 in 2021.

The number of registered donors stood at 539,855 as of the end of July this year, marking an increase of only 1,420 during the first seven months of the year, or a rise of only 12,634 from the end of 2019, before the pandemic.

Shozo Umeda, a director of the Japan Marrow Donor Registry Promotion Conference, said, “Leukemia is a life-threatening disease, and the slow growth in registered bone marrow donors is a serious problem.” Umeda said, “We want young people in particular to cooperate while taking COVID-19 precautions.”