The Courier-Mail

Screening change on right foot


NEWBORN babies could be tested for a range of new illnesses after a nationwide review of screening practices.

Days-old babies are currently screened for about 25 rare conditions, using a sample of blood from their heel.

But now the “heel prick test” is undergoing its own examinatio­n, with health officials debating how – and whether – other diseases should be included.

The list of treatable conditions screened for in Australian maternity hospitals has not changed in more than a decade.

The Newborn Bloodspot Screening Working Group began reviewing how illnesses were assessed for the screening program last year, and will report in mid-2016.

Selina Metternick-Jones, who will discuss the review at a genetics conference tomorrow, said the number of conditions babies were tested for would not necessaril­y increase, but one of the main aims was to ensure testing kept pace with technology.

The working group was originally formed after the Human Genetics Society of Australasi­a identified “an urgent need” for a more streamline­d approach to evaluating potential new tests.

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