The number of screenings on newly born babies at hospitals across the UAE has been increased to 16 types of genetic disorders by the Ministry of Health (MoH) from Thursday.
The infants were being tested for only five types of diseases. The national newborn screening programme will include 30 checkups from the next year onwards, said a senior ministry official.
The national newborn screening programme, aims 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, the 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 defects related to amino acids, fatty and organic acids causing disabilities or mortalities to the newborns, if not detected at an early stage and treated properly,” she added.
Al Hosani revealed that the national newborn screening programme conducted checkups of 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 were discovered in the babies. About 223 Mangolian anaemia and 32 congenital disorders were found in 2010, as the actual participation of the infants reached 95 per cent,” 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 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,” she said.
“The possible recurrence of the disease may occur to 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 checkup to certify that they are free from diseases and to ensure their children might not be affected. The parents should make these checkups for their newborn babies regularly.
“Samples are taken from the newborn after 48 hours of birth inside a maternity centre of each medical district. All tests are taken through a very small drop. 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.