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Babies could be screened for 'life-threatening' condition

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Could a test like this save some babies' lives? Could a test like this make some babies' lives a lot easier?

Children may start being screened for a rare condition which makes it hard to fight off infections as the UK National Screening Committee (UK NSC) begins consultation.

Severe Combined Immune Deficiency (SCID) is an inherited condition which appears in 15 to 25 new born babies each year. Seemingly minor infections can be life-threatening for a child with SCID.

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UK NSC’s consultation findings will provide information about whether SCID should be added to the existing NHS new born blood spot screening programme, which currently checks for nine rare but serious health conditions using a blood sample from a baby’s heel.

Screening for SCID would use blood from the current heel prick test to check if a baby has a low white blood cell count, which may make them more likely to have infections.

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Before a decision can be taken, UK NSC said it wants to know more about whether screening will save lives, the number of healthy babies found to have low numbers of white blood cells, and what care and treatment is best for babies who are found to have low numbers of white blood cells for reasons other than SCID.

‘This consultation will consider key organisations’ and the public’s views on how testing for SCID would work practically within the NHS,’ said UK NSC director of programmes Dr Anne Mackie. ‘We need this information before the Screening Committee can make a recommendation on including SCID as part of the new born programme.’

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The consultation will run until early November.

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