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Most US Newborns Receiving Screening for Many Disorders

March of Dimes report discusses status of screening for genetic and functional conditions

THURSDAY, Feb. 19 (HealthDay News) -- Nearly all of the more than 4 million children born annually in the United States are now required to undergo screening for at least 21 genetic or functional disorders, according to a report released Feb. 18 by the March of Dimes.

According to the organization, all 50 states and the District of Columbia require that all infants be screened for 21 or more of a panel of 29 serious disorders recommended by the American College of Medical Genetics. Early diagnosis of the disorders can allow them to be managed to reduce the risk of death, disability and other adverse outcomes. However, as of the end of 2008, Pennsylvania and West Virginia still needed to implement their expanded programs, according to the report.

The 29 disorders are grouped into five categories: amino acid metabolism disorders, organic acid metabolism disorders, fatty acid oxidation disorders, hemoglobinopathies, and others. They include phenylketonuria, maple syrup urine disease, homocystinuria, sickle cell anemia, congenital hypothyroidism, hearing loss and cystic fibrosis.

"This is a sweeping advance for public health," said R. Rodney Howell, M.D., chair of the Health and Human Services Secretary's advisory committee on heritable disorders in newborns and children, in a prepared statement. "Now, whether babies are screened and can get the immediate treatment they need to lead a healthy life no longer depends on the state in which they are born."

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