Europe

Baby with rare skin condition abandoned at Italian hospital

A baby at a hospital Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The baby has been cared for by nurses in Turin for four months (stock photo)

A baby born with a rare condition that means he must be kept from direct sunlight has been abandoned at a hospital in Turin, Italian media say.

The four-month-old, named Giovannino, has harlequin ichthyosis - a genetic condition that causes thick, dry skin.

Nurses have been caring for him since his birth in August, but he may need to leave the hospital within weeks.

It is not clear why the parents cannot be contacted or why they have not returned to collect Giovannino.

"I don't know what the reason is, the only thing certain is that this child has been abandoned," one of the nurses looking after him at the Sant'Anna hospital said on condition of anonymity, Italy's La Stampa newspaper reports.

Staff are taking it in turns to push Giovannino around the hospital corridors, the nurse added. "We all dream that he will soon have a little room of his own."

Local authorities are reportedly aware of the situation and have been trying to track down the parents for a response. They are also looking at providing a temporary home for Giovannino, but his condition means that he needs special care, La Stampa adds.

Giovannino is being kept in a neonatal intensive care unit at the hospital. To help prevent his skin from drying out and cracking, he is kept from sunlight and treated with moisturiser several times a day.

"He is a cute child who smiles and loves being taken around the ward," the head of the neonatal unit, Daniele Farina, told La Repubblica, adding: "He is happy when someone makes him listen to music."

Within hours of Giovannino's story making the news on Wednesday, people began contacting the hospital and offering to adopt him - some sent heartfelt letters describing how they wished to welcome him into their homes.

Authorities in the northern Italian city of Turin said they were evaluating all requests and looking at the possibility of specialist foster care.

What is harlequin ichthyosis?

The condition, which is said to affect just one person in every million, is the result of a faulty gene.

It affects the rate at which the skin regenerates, meaning that old dry skin cells either take longer to shed, or new cells are reproduced too quickly, causing a build-up of thick skin.

Large scaly plates then form, separated by deep cracks, which is where it gets the name.

The extremely rare condition can alter the appearance of facial features and cause discomfort when moving the arms and legs.

It can also affect the ability of a person to deal with infection.

The symptoms usually appear at birth or within the first year.

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