Newborn Screening Celebrates
On May 18th of this year, there was a party held at the Genetics Disease
Branch of the stateís Department of Health Services. The attendees were
celebrating the ten-millionth baby having been screened by the California
Newborn Screening Program. This state-operated program was initiated on October
1, 1980 and performs tests of blood samples for over 500,000 babies each year.
Nationwide, there is a system whereby each infant born in a hospital is tested
to determine if they have inherited the metabolic disorder of Phenylketonuria
or Galactosemia, or if they are impacted by the birth abnormality of Hypothyroidism.
In California, the newborn screening program also tests newborns for a series of
blood disorders, including sickle cell.
This screening program has been very successful in identifying infants with
these metabolic or congenital disorders. Since the state-operated program began
in California during 1980, over 4,300 infants have been identified as having one
of the disorders early in their lives. Thus treatment could be implemented BEFORE
the babies brain has been damaged.
Phenylketonuria (PKU) is an inherited disease that, if left untreated,
progressively damages the brain and causes severe mental retardation as the
PKU affects the bodyís ability to handle one of the amino acids that is found
in all protein foods. If it is known that the infant has this disorder, the
condition can be treated through a special diet and the damage is prevented.
Galactosemia likewise is inherited. This is a disorder where the infant
is born lacking the ability to break down and convert galactose (a sugar
compound found in milk products).
The galactose of an infantís food accumulates in and damages the cells and
organs. This damage can lead to jaundice, severe mental retardation,
retardation, growth deficiency, and even death. The disorder can easily be
treated if it is known that the infant has the condition.
Hypothyroidism results from an inadequate supply of the thyroid hormone,
thyroxine. If the condition is not known and therefore left untreated, the
infantís growth will be stunted, and mental retardation will occur from lack
of stimulation of the brain by the hormone thyroxine.
These three disorders have some things in common. Clearly, they can easily be
detected, and they can easily be treated resulting in the prevention of mental
retardation and other serious damage. The testing for the three conditions
utilizes the same dried blood spots.
Newborn Screening Report
October 1980 through October 1999
Tests Completed - 9,725,556 Births
|Test Panels completed from 10/1/1980