Newborn Screening, or NBS as it is commonly called, is the process of screening newborn babies for metabolic disorders, genetic diseases, blood
diseases etc. It has been around since 1960 in the Unites States but it
is still a new concept in India. It involves checking for a large
number of diseases at the time of birth so that some sort of preventive
measures can be applied.
Though it is not possible all to cure all such diseases yet, early detection is useful at curtailing a wide range of diseases. Let's see how Newborn Screening can benefit your baby.
What is Newborn Screening?
Newborn Screening refers to tests carried out on a newborn baby's blood to detect Inborn Errors of Metabolism
(IEMs). These tests cover a wide variety of diseases and help in
preventing future issues. Early detection may, in some cases, even
suppress a disorder entirely. For example, congenital hypothyroidism,
which is a very common disorder in India, can be prevented by neonatal
Newborn screening is also effective at tackling diseases like Maple Syrup Urine disease, Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia, Glucose-6-Phosphate Dehydrogenase Deficiency, Phenylketonuria, Galactosemia, mental retardation, etc.
How is Newborn Screening done?
Screening of newborns is most effective during the neonatal period, which is why the blood sample is taken shortly after birth. Newborn screening is carried out by taking a few drops of blood from the baby's heel 24 to 48 hours after birth. This blood is then tested using advanced methods (like tandem mass spectrometry or MS/MS) and disorders, if any, are identified.
Normally, if there are irregularities in the initial screening test, the blood
is sent for further tests. Full reports are then submitted either to
the baby's pediatrician or the parents. Based on the reports, the baby
can be treated and the family counseled.
Why is Newborn Screening Important?
Early knowledge about a condition can help you in keeping
the child safe or suppressing the symptoms. Some conditions, unless
detected on time, can be fatal for the baby. Timely detection of
certain disorders can also prevent mental retardation or a lifelong
impairment. Also, if the condition detected is not immediately
dangerous, parents can take measures to ensure that the condition is
not aggravated in the future, by say, antibiotics or any allergen.
Mental retardation and physical disability can also be avoided, in many cases, by newborn screening.
While it is rare to actually have a metabolic disorder, testing on time
can save parents a lot of trouble in case the disease surfaces at a
later point of time.
Also, healthy parents can also be carriers of genetic
disorders. A quick screening process can ensure that the disorder will
not suddenly surface and affect the baby's health. It is also possible
that a seemingly-healthy baby could have a disease. Newborn screening ensures that such suppressed diseases are detected.
Newborn Screening in India
Many countries across the world have made newborn screening
mandatory. Most Indian hospitals, though equipped with adequate
technology, are yet to offer this option to their customers. This
situation is slowly changing as awareness of newborn screening increases in India. A few pathology labs offer customers newborn screening packages, where they have to send the blood sample to the lab directly after taking the blood sample from the baby.
may be an expensive proposition today but this scenario can change if
the government makes efforts to make it mandatory. As most countries in
the US, EU and some parts of Asia have already made it compulsory, the
costs have also dropped in those countries. If a similar program is
adopted in India, many lives can be saved.
Even though screening a baby for disorders is personal
choice, it is better to screen a newborn than to risk expensive
treatment at a later point of time. It saves both baby and parents a
lot of unnecessary trouble.
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- The Indiaparenting Team
Have you screened your newborn for any disorders? Do you think newborn screening is necessary? Do you think it should be made mandatory?
i got to know abt it recently and got it done for my niece who is 7 months old. her urine sample was collcted on specialized filter papers and was sent to lab, received report in just 3 days time....
Very sorry for loss of your child. was browsing once on newborn screening and found people engaged actively in facebook promoting newborn screening. perhaps u can share ur ideas so that a life is sav...
Mr vikram, there more than 100 disorders which can be diagnosed at present using simple test. and these disorders are very rare. in my family we had no history of genetic sort of abnormality or condit...