All new babies to be screened for cystic fibrosis
ALL newborn babies are to be screened for cystic fibrosis, it was confirmed yesterday.
The long-awaited move means the disease can be picked up early and treated, reducing harm to the respiratory system.
The screening is added to the heel-prick test, which is automatically given to all newborns to check for a range of disorders.
Originally recommended in 2005, the testing finally began last Friday and will now be applied to the 70,000 babies born in the country's maternity hospitals and units annually.
Previously, some babies were being diagnosed late, putting them at increased risk of malnutrition and respiratory distress. Crucially, the earlier diagnosis has also been cited as increasing life expectancy.
It is estimated that three babies a week will be diagnosed with the disease or will be identified as a healthy carrier of the altered gene that causes it.
Cystic fibrosis is an inherited condition and one study estimated that the incidence is as high as one in every 1,353 births here.
It is caused by a faulty gene which allows too much salt and not enough water into cells. This results in a build-up of thick, sticky mucus in the body's tubes and passageways. These damage lungs, the digestive system and other organs and cause repeated infections.
A baby with cystic fibrosis needs pancreatic enzymes to help them digest food.