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NEWBORN SCREENING

Newborn screening is a social necessity. Every society worth their sort should attach great interest in the wellbeing of their newborns.

These are the ones on whose shoulders the future of the society would be built on and ensuring that they thrive naturally is very crucial. Indeed, it is at this time of the infant’s life that great care must be given for them to survive and grow, hence, the importance of newborn screening.

Metabolic birth defects can cause physical problems, mental retardation, and, in some cases, death. It is best for the baby and the family if these conditions are detected and treated early.

These are simply, tests that are carried out shortly after birth to identify congenital or genetic disorders in newborn babies that could result in major disabilities if not managed early and appropriately. Usually, most babies are born healthy, but for some percentage, symptoms of rare conditions may be identified.  The main purpose of these tests is to look out for these conditions to identify them early (if they are present) and start treatment early so the child will have a better chance at living a healthy life.

In the womb usually, these conditions cannot be observed hence the need for newborn screening.

WHAT CONDITIONS ARE LOOKED FOR IN NEWBORN SCREENING?

Newborn screening in sub-Sahara Africa, for example, looks out for sickle cell disease in infants as it accounts for about 75% plus of the global sickle cell disease burden. To that end, hemoglobinopathy screening should be a focus of newborn screening aside from the many different congenital conditions that may look out for in this part of the world.

Generally, other common conditions looked out for in newborn screening are amino acid disorders, e.g., phenylketonuria (PKU), organic acid disorders, congenital hypothyroidism (CH), fatty acid metabolism disorders, thalassemia’s, etc.

HOW NEWBORN SCREENING HAPPENS

The newborn screen is most accurate if the infant's blood is taken after the first 36 hours of their life. If it was done before 36 hours of age, a second sample needs to be taken if the infant is 1 to 2 weeks old.

The baby’s heel is pricked, and a few drops of blood are taken on a special filter paper which is dried and taken to the laboratory to be tested for different conditions.

Remember, the sooner the baby’s condition is diagnosed, the sooner treatment for whatever ails the baby can start. Newborn screening for some babes may need to be repeated. If that is the case, the family would be contacted to do that, and it is important it is done as soon as possible.

 

BENEFITS OF NEWBORN SCREENING

Early identification of likely rare conditions in infants is very important for the well-being and growth of the child and relief to the family. This seems like the immediate benefit of screening newborns, but the benefits exceed just the child and family.  Identifying and treating children could lead to individuals who instead of becoming a burden to family, society, and the nation at large, would grow healthy and can lead meaningful and productive lives and so contribute to national development.

The successful introduction, sustenance, and expansion of newborn screening in a nation’s health infrastructure are a win-win for all. There ought to be a comprehensive newborn screening program that national leaders and crucial stakeholders are committed to beyond mere lip service; a newborn screening program undergirded by policies and guidelines with health workers given the needed training and support – i. e. necessary laboratory infrastructure and associated systems – to run it successfully. And of course, there should be funding – sufficing, reliable, and unfailing funding is given to ensure newborns are given the best of opportunities to live and thrive and become contributors to the growth and development of their family, society, and nation.

References:

https://www.kidshealth.org/
https://raisingchildren.net.au/

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