An Indian teenager, suffering from a rare medical condition known as progeria which made him age eight times faster than normal, has died due to brain stroke. Nihal Bitla, 15, was India's first individual reported to be having the genetic disorder and became a well-known face of the progeria campaign ever since.
Bitla was at his native village in the southern Indian state of Telangana to attend a wedding. He complained of severe dehydration and was immediately taken to a hospital. The teenager passed away within hours of admission. Though he was only 15, his body was like that of someone who is more than 60 years of age.
Speaking to IBTimes UK, Bitla's father Shrinivas Bitla said: "He was doing very well and did not have any medical problems in the last few days. Only on the last day, he had some dehydration issues so we took him to the hospital."
The father said he would continue his progeria campaign in the coming days.
Bitla was diagnosed with progeria, medically known as Hutchinson–Gilford progeria syndrome, at the age of one. Currently, there is no treatment available for progeria.
"Nihal, your contagious smile, positive attitude, inspiring chats, optimistic outlook will give us strength for years to come. You have left us behind with heavy hearts for a higher place. Rest in peace our dear friend. Our thoughts and condolences with family and friends," wrote Team Nihal, the progeria campaigners.
Those who have the medical condition age several times faster than normal resulting in their death either due to heart attack or brain stroke. According to estimates of the Progeria Research Foundation, between 150 and 200 children in the world have this degenerative genetic disorder. Among them, 60 are in India.
In 2014, Bitla went to Boston along with Ishan, 3, who also suffered from progeria, to participate in a clinical trial for a drug, which could potentially control the ageing process. He was an avid fan of Bollywood superstar Aamir Khan, who met the boy after knowing he was suffering from such a condition.