A young woman, whose identity remains undisclosed, has recently given birth to two twin boys in Brazil. This wasn’t, however, an ‘average pregnancy’ as the two young newborns have two separate biological fathers—a fact that is bewildering the medical community.
According to UNILAD, the woman, who is originally from Mineiros, Goiás in Brazil, had sex with two men on the same day and soon after fell pregnant. After having given birth, she took a paternity test and discovered that the DNA she had obtained from the man she assumed to have been the father, was only positive for one of the children.
Following this discovery, she contacted the other man she had had previous relations with and it was soon revealed that he was indeed the biological father of the other twin boy. Understandably, the mother was overwhelmed and “surprised” by the shocking results.
The scientific term for this one-in-a-million case is ‘heteropaternal superfecundation’. Speaking to The Guardian about the phenomenon, Jason Kasraie, chair of the Association of Clinical Embryologists, explained, “First, a woman can release two eggs at the same time. Since sperm can survive for a few days in the female reproductive tract, loitering in the corner of the womb and the fallopian tube, it would be possible to have sex with one father-to-be in advance of the egg being released, and another just after ovulation.”
Kasraie continued: “In the second scenario, the woman releases two eggs a few days apart but in the same reproductive cycle.”
Despite the babies having different fathers, it’s understood that only one of the men will be registered on the birth certificate. When referencing the father in question, the mother told local news outlets, “He takes care of both of them, helps me a lot and gives them all the necessary support that they need.”
Speaking with g1, Dr. Túlio Jorge Franco, who treated the young woman at the medical school where he teaches, emphasised how incredible this case truly is. “It’s extremely rare,” the expert said. “It happens one in a million. I never imagined that I would see a case like this in my life.”
It has been speculated that this will indeed be the 20th case of heteropaternal superfecundation ever recorded globally and while this is a shock in itself, it is most important to note that both the mother and her two twin boys are healthy and without any medical concerns.
Conjoined twins from Brazil who were born with their brains fused together have been successfully separated, thanks to virtual reality (VR) and a team led by a Kashmiri-British neurosurgeon.
Bernardo and Arthur Lima underwent several operations in Rio de Janeiro under the direction of UK-based paediatric surgeon, Dr. Noor ul Owase Jeelani, from London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital. The three-year-old boys had a total of seven surgeries—including more than 33 hours of operating time in the final two alone—involving almost 100 medical staff.
According to Gemini Untwined, a charity founded by Dr. Jeelani dedicated to the research and treatment of craniopagus twins around the globe, the case was one of the most complex operations of its kind ever completed to date.
Led by Dr. Jeelani alongside Dr. Gabriel Mufarrej, head of paediatric surgery at Instituto Estadual do Cerebro Paulo Niemeyer, both experts spent months trialling techniques by using VR projections of the twins based on their CT and MRI scans. The surgeons wore VR headsets and operated in the same “virtual reality room” together—despite being almost 6,000 miles apart—allowing them to overcome any apprehension about the actual procedure.
“It’s just wonderful, it’s really great to see the anatomy and do the surgery before you actually put the children at any risk,” Dr. Jeelani told The Times. “You can imagine how reassuring that is for the surgeons. In some ways, these operations are considered the hardest of our time, and to do it in virtual reality was just really man-on-Mars stuff.”
The publication went on to note how Dr. Jeelani, who performs up to 300 neurosurgical and craniofacial procedures every year, said he was “absolutely shattered” after the final operation—during which he took only four 15-minute breaks for food and water. “The team’s work was complicated by the presence of scar tissue from previous unsuccessful attempts to separate the twins,” The Times reported.
Bernardo and Arthur were said to be recovering well after their blood pressure and heart rates went “through the roof” after the procedure. The expert also mentioned that the twins’ vital signs improved when they were reunited after four days and touched hands for the first time. “There were a lot of tears and hugs,” Dr. Jeelani said, adding how the family was “over the moon” with the outcome. “It was wonderful to be able to help them on this journey.”
According to Gemini Untwined, conjoined twins are quite rare, accounting for about one in 60,000 live births, with only 5 per cent of these joined at the head. The Times also reported how it’s estimated that 50 such sets of craniopagus twins are born around the world every year. Of them, it is thought that only 15 survive beyond 30 days.
“As a parent myself, it is always such a special privilege to be able to improve the outcome for these children and their family,” Dr. Jeelani admitted. “Not only have we provided a new future for the boys and their family, we have equipped the local team with the capabilities and confidence to undertake such complex work successfully again in the future.”