THE BABY SUFFERS FROM A DISEASE CALLED Harlequin-type ichthyosis
Sufferers are known as harlequin fetuses, harlequin babies, or harlequins.
The disease has been known since around 1750, and was first described in the diary of Rev. Oliver Hart: “On Thursday, April þe 5, 1750, I went to see a most deplorable object of a child, born the night before of one Mary Evans in ‘Chas’town. It was surprising to all who beheld it, and I scarcely know how to describe it. The skin was dry and hard and seemed to be cracked in many places, somewhat resembling the scales of a fish. The mouth was large and round and open. It had no external nose, but two holes where the nose should have been. The eyes appeared to be lumps of coagulated blood, turned out, about the bigness of a plum, ghastly to behold. It had no external ears, but holes where the ears should be. The hands and feet appeared to be swollen, were cramped up and felt quite hard. The back part of the head was much open. It made a strange kind of noise, very low, which I cannot describe. It lived about forty-eight hours and was alive when I saw it.”
OVER 400 CASES HAVE BEEN REPORTED WORLDWIDE IN MODERN TIMES. Neither gender nor ethnicity seem to affect the likelihood of a child having the disorder. A disproportionately high number of children have consanguineous parents. Those from families with a history of severe skin disorders may have a higher risk of birthing a harlequin child.