Story By: Georgina Jadikovska, Sub-Editor: Marija Stojkoska, Agency: Newsflash
An eight-month-old boy born looking like an old man as a result of a rare genetic disease that is believed to have been the inspiration for the story of Benjamin Button has gone viral online when his parents opened an account to show him to family and friends.
The Instagram account has won him many admirers with his charming smile and blue eyes and although local media compared his appearance to the story of Benjamin Button who starts out old and grows younger, for little Vito Rodriguez March from the Argentinian city of San Nicolas to Benjamin Button, he will not be getting any younger.
The baby was born to parents Rocio March, 31, and Patricio Rodriguez, 36, on 18th November 2020.
Vito is the second case in the world born with neonatal progeroid also known as the Wiedemann-Rautenstrauch syndrome (WRS). It belongs to the progeroid range of diseases.
WRS is characterized by an aged appearance at birth, as well as delayed growth before and after birth (prenatal and postnatal growth retardation), and deficiency or absence of the layer of fat under the skin.
Progeroid syndromes like WRS are a group of rare genetic disorders that mimic physiological ageing, making affected individuals appear to be older than they are.
Other examples of such syndromes include Werner syndrome, Bloom syndrome, Rothmund–Thomson syndrome, Cockayne syndrome, xeroderma pigmentosum, trichothiodystrophy, combined xeroderma pigmentosum-Cockayne syndrome, restrictive dermopathy, and Hutchinson–Gilford progeria syndrome.
According to his mother Rocio, doctors began to detect a certain anomaly that put the baby’s life at risk when she was 28 weeks pregnant and at first believed the baby had Edwards syndrome or Downs Syndrome.
However, after performing more analysis doctors found out that the child was suffering from the rare progressive genetic abnormality which causes premature ageing in children and includes symptoms such as hair loss and slow growth.
Due to small blisters that appeared on his foot Vito was diagnosed with neonatal progeroid syndrome on 5th May.
His mother Rocio reported: “The scene was dark. They told us that the baby was incompatible with life and that these are children who only live for a month.”
She added that Vito was born underdeveloped and with extremely low birth weight and had to be intubated for 52 days.
However, as the little one continued fighting for his life and kept getting better his parents opened an Instagram account (@holasoyvitook) to show him to their family and friends, who were not able to meet him due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite its original purpose, Vito’s profile currently counts over 53,500 followers who call themselves ‘VitoFans’ and faithfully follow his further growth and development.
His mother said: “He is a little boy with grandfather problems. He took a lot of aspirin to make the blood thinner and not cause thrombosis, since babies with WRS often die of heart or cerebrovascular problems. His heart is beating too slow and he takes medication for that, but he is developing well.”
She added: “On a daily basis, all children with WRS are perfect but they do not accumulate fat, they do not grow much, and they do not gain weight. Therefore, their bodies are smaller. The average life span is up to seven or eight years, but there are people with 27 years and we met a woman on Instagram who is 41 years old.”
According to the European Organisation for Rare Diseases (EURORDIS), Progeria syndrome occurs “with a frequency of one in four-eight million, and there are an estimated 200 children around the world who have Progeria.
The most recent cases identified live in Brazil, India, Japan, Peru, Turkey, the Philippines, Portugal, South Africa and the United States.”
Vito, who was only the second ever person to be born with neonatal progeroid is currently undergoing treatment with a range of therapies including kinesiology, speech therapy, as well as motor skills, respiratory, occupational and pediatric therapy.