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Newborn screening can help save babies

Published Nov 20, 2013, 3:43 pm IST
Updated Mar 18, 2019, 7:18 pm IST
National Newborn Week stress on screening newborns and detecting metabolic disorders quite earlier.
Picture for representational purpose only. -AP
 Picture for representational purpose only. -AP

Chennai: Hundreds of infants die even before completing their first four weeks of life and half of the deaths happen on the first day itself. As National Newborn Week is being observed from November 15-21, experts stress on screening newborns and detecting metabolic disorders quite earlier.

“Newborn screening paves the way for early detection and early treatment thereby reducing the burden of physical and mental disability on these children and also on the family and society,” said Dr Sujatha Jagadish, genetic consultant, Mediscan.


Experts point out that a lot of work has to be done towards improving newborn health in India as nearly 5-15 per cent of newborns are sick due to metabolic diseases. A major group of these babies is left with irreversible complications of physical and mental impairment and some die, if affected by severe forms of these conditions.

“This spectrum of diseases affect the health status of children mainly during the neonatal period, infancy and under-five age groups which is the prime time of brain growth and development of biophysical parameters,” Dr Jagadish said.

The five metabolic disorders screened commonly are- congenital hypothyroidism (CH), congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH), galactosemia, glucose 6 phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency that results in red blood cell disintegration and cystic fibrosis.

Dr Prof S. Suresh, managing trustee of Fetal Care Research Foundation, said in Tamil Nadu nearly 99 per cent of deliveries happen in the institutions and the newborn screening would help segregate high-risk babies for a metabolic disorder.

A five-year study by the National Task Force (NTF), Chennai team, has saved 43 infants affected by CH from becoming mentally retarded children.

The NTF collected 20,000 samples each for hypothyroidism and CAH, two treatable disorders. “If CAH is identified, babies are treated by using steroids,” informed Dr Suresh.

Location: Tamil Nadu