State Newborn-Screening Programs Vary, March of Dimes Study Finds
Health care providers in 15 states and Washington, D.C., must screen newborns for fewer than 10 of the 29 medical conditions for which the American College of Medical Genetics recommends tests, according to a study of state newborn-screening programs released on Tuesday by the March of Dimes, the Wall Street Journal reports.
For the study, researchers examined data from a federally funded research project on newborns and genetics conducted at the University of Texas Health Science Center and found that providers in 23 states must screen newborns for more than 20 medical conditions and that providers in 12 states must test for 10 to 20 conditions (Goldfarb, Wall Street Journal, 7/12). Twenty of the 29 medical conditions for which providers test newborns are rare metabolic disorders and others include inherited conditions, such as cystic fibrosis and sickle cell disease.
According to the study, phenylketonuria, or PKU, is the only metabolic disorder for which all states require newborn screening. In addition, all states require newborn screenings for congenital hypothyroidism, sickle cell disease, beta thalassemia and glactosemia, the study found (Rubin, USA Today, 7/12). Over the past year, eight states -- including California, Florida and Minnesota -- have passed laws that will require expanded newborn screening (Wall Street Journal, 7/12).
March of Dimes President Jennifer Howse said that about 15,000 to 19,000 of the four million U.S. infants born annually have a treatable medical condition for which a test is available (USA Today, 7/12). Supporters maintain that newborn screening allows providers and parents to take measures to prevent fatal medical conditions.
However, according to opponents, many physicians lack the expertise to treat rare metabolic disorders detected by newborn screening, and the tests can produce false positives. In addition, opponents maintain that newborn screening often occurs without parental consent, which raises legal concerns (Wall Street Journal, 7/12).