By PMA RASHEED
14 Jan 2011, The Gulf Today
Newborn babies in the UAE will hereafter be screened for 16 types of genetic disorders, according to Ministry of Health (MoH) stipulations that came into effect on Thursday.
The screening was limited to five diseases earlier. A ministry official revealed that the national newborn screening programme will include 30 checkups from the next year onwards.
The national newborn screening programme, aimed at protecting children from genetic diseases, is part of the department’s strategy since 1995, as the early screening and treatment can save the lives of newborn babies and decrease the mortality rates.
Dr Hajar Al Hosani, Director of Maternity and Childhood Central Administration at the MoH, said that an advanced technology, named TMS system, has been introduced in the ministry’s screening programmes.
“The system discovers most defects related to amino acids, fatty and organic acids causing disabilities or mortalities of the newborns, if not detected at the early stages and treated properly,” she added.
Al Hosani revealed that that the national newborn screening programme conducted checkups for 670,000 newborn babies between 2005 and 2010. The programme has so far covered about 98 per cent of the newborn babies in all the ministry’s hospitals.
“During this period, about 340 cases of thyroid gland deficiencies have been discovered in newborn babies. About 223 Mangolian anemia and 32 congenital disorders were found in 2010, as the actual participation of the infants reached at 95 per cent in the year,” she elaborated.
“The newborn baby screening programme, since 1995, managed to protect 645 children from dangerous genetic diseases that may cause mental retardation and death,” she said.
According to Al Hosani, the GCC initial statistics showed that metabolic diseases occur at a rate of one baby per 1,000 births and can be discovered by the TMS system.
“The disorder, transmitted from parents to their children, causes various disabilities and death at a rate of three per cent. Even some healthy children may carry the disease like their parents. Such transmission is called recessive hereditary condition that inherited genes from both parents,” she said.
“Possible recurrence of the disease may occur with 25 per cent during the mother’s pregnancy while possible non-re infection is 75 per cent,” she added.
She advised parents to make pre-marital check-up to certify that they are free from the disease and ensure their children might not be affected with it. The parents should make these checkups for their newborn babies regularly.
“Samples are taken from the newborn, after 48 hours of birth, inside the maternity centre of each medical district. All tests are taken through a very small drop of blood via baby’s heel pick leaving the blood to dry in a special place. The test is simple and not harmful to children,” explained Al Hosani.“International quality standards are implemented in the programme under the supervision of the NEQAS programme, which is applied in Birmingham, UK since 1998. The World Health Organisation also has approved the programme,” she noted.