Screen for 'baby in a bubble' condition: doctors
Published 28/01/2011 | 10:05
All newborns should be screened for the potentially fatal 'baby in a bubble' syndrome as research shows that early treatment saves lives, leading doctors have said.
Researchers in Britain have called for all babies to be tested for the condition that means children effectively have no immune system can cannot fight even simple infections.
The condition is dubbed 'baby in a bubble' because children often have to live in isolation for prolonged periods.
Often it is not detected until the child becomes seriously unwell and does not respond to treatment.
It is usually treated with a bone marrow transplant which is more successful if done earlier before the baby has been exposed to infections.
Research conducted at Great Ormond Street Hospital and Newcastle General Hospital has compared survival rates in children whose condition was only detected when they first fell ill with their younger siblings who were tested and diagnosed at birth.
The findings, published in the journal Blood, showed that more than a third of children who were diagnosed late died before they could receive a bone marrow transplant and almost four in ten who did receive a transplant died afterwards.
This was compared with only 1.7pc of children diagnosed at birth who died before transplant and 8.5pc who died after transplant.
It meant that more than nine out of ten children who were diagnosed at birth survived compared with less than two thirds of those diagnosed late.
The condition called severe combined immunodeficiency may effect up to one baby in every 25,000.
Even taking into account the cost of performing bone marrow transplants on all the babies discovered to have SCID through a national screening programme, the test would still prove cost effective, doctors said.
Professor Bobby Gaspar, consultant in paediatric immunology at Great Ormond Street and lead author said: “SCID is a devastating condition and unless treated, children will usually die in the first year of life.
“This study clearly shows how important it is to diagnose SCID early before children have had a chance to pick up an infection. The research shows that there would be a clear clinical benefit for a screening programme. We are working towards this in the UK and need to ensure that a quick and reliable test becomes available.”
The team are submitting their findings to the National Screening Committee which will decide whether to recommend a national testing programme.
A simple blood test costing a few pounds could be performed on the same sample as currently taken during the routine 'heel prick' test already done on newborns.
Those babies found to have SCID could then be treated swiftly before they suffer debilitating infections and prolonged hospital stays in isolation and intensive care.