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April 20, 1984

Physicians continue to study cause(s) of `bubble' boy's death

JAMA. 1984;251(15):1929. doi:10.1001/jama.1984.03340390003001

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David, the 12-year-old boy from Houston who lived all but two weeks of his life in a plastic isolator bubble, is dead of heart failure. He suffered from severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID), a rare primary immunodeficiency disease in which both B and T lymphocytes are missing or are immunologically inactive, and—even after his death—physicians continue to learn from his unique case.

David received a bone marrow transplant last fall from his older sister, who was the most closely but still not perfectly matched donor available (JAMA [MEDICAL NEWS] 1983;250:2751). At that time, David, along with his family and physicians, agreed to try an innovative technique made available in recent years.

This technique attempts to remove T lymphocytes from mismatched donor marrow that are responsible for graft v host disease (GVHD). The method David's physicians chose employs rabbit complement and a monoclonal antibody directed against the T12 surface antigen found on