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Newborn Screenings Now Required Across U.S.
Date:2/18/2009

All states mandate at least 21 tests for devastating conditions, report says

WEDNESDAY, Feb. 18 (HealthDay News) -- Four years ago, only about one in three babies in the United States was born in a state that required newborn to be screened for a host of conditions. But by the end of 2008, all 50 states and the District of Columbia had either laws or rules requiring newborn screening for at least 21 disorders, a new report finds.

"The states have really made outstanding progress in expanding newborn screening programs," said Jennifer Howse, president of the March of Dimes, which issued the report Wednesday.

The panel of tests checks for genetic, metabolic, hormonal and functional disorders, according to the organization. Many of the disorders cause no visible symptoms in a baby until after damage, often permanent, is done. Some of the disorders lead to mental retardation, and others end in death.

The first test that was made available was for phenylketonuria (PKU), a condition in which the body can't process part of a protein called phenylalanine. The disorder affects about one child in every 25,000 born in the United States, according to the March of Dimes. Left untreated, phenylalanine accumulates in the body and can cause serious brain damage and mental retardation. Changes in diet can prevent these problems from occurring, but the diet must be started soon after birth and followed for the rest of the child's life to prevent brain damage.

Another disorder now tested for is congenital hypothyroidism, which affects an estimated one in 5,000 U.S. babies. Replacement thyroid hormone is considered a simple and effective treatment for the disorder. But without a newborn screening test, treatment might not begin until the lack of thyroid hormone causes brain and growth retardation.

"Any time you can proactively identify a problem and treat it, you can avoid a lot of complications and lifelong con
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