Unique Skill ID: BGSA5BE7215A43C968B6

Newborn Screening

Newborn screening (NBS) is a public health program of screening in infants shortly after birth for conditions that are treatable, but not clinically evident in the newborn period. The goal is to identify infants at risk for these conditions early enough to confirm the diagnosis and provide intervention that will alter the clinical course of the disease and prevent or ameliorate the clinical manifestations. NBS started with the discovery that the amino acid disorder phenylketonuria (PKU) could be treated by dietary adjustment, and that early intervention was required for the best outcome. Infants with PKU appear normal at birth, but are unable to metabolize the essential amino acid phenylalanine, resulting in irreversible intellectual disability. In the 1960s, Robert Guthrie developed a simple method using a bacterial inhibition assay that could detect high levels of phenylalanine in blood shortly after a baby was born. Guthrie also pioneered the collection of blood on filter paper which could be easily transported, recognizing the need for a simple system if the screening was going to be done on a large scale. Newborn screening around the world is still done using similar filter paper. NBS was first introduced as a public health program in the United States in the early 1960s, and has expanded to countries around the world.

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