These disorders affect children mainly during the neonatal period, infancy and ages under five years

Newborn screening could help pick up early signs of a number of metabolic disorders and improve the long-term health of babies, say experts.

At least 5 to 15 per cent of newborns are sick due to metabolic disorders in the country. Several babies are left with irreversible complications of physical and mental impairment, according to a press release.

The commonly screened metabolic disorders are Congenital Hypothyroidism (which can lead to intellectual disability if left untreated) and Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia (which can cause death in male babies and external ambiguity of gender in female babies).

Babies affected with Galactosemia cannot assimilate mother’s milk, while Glucose 6 Phosphate Dehydrogenase deficiency results in red blood cell disintegration. Cystic Fibrosis, if left untreated, could affect the lungs, pancreas and intestine, said Sujatha Jagadish, genetic consultant of Mediscan.

. Hence, newborn screening could help in early detection and treatment, she added.

According to Sudha Rathnaprabu, research scientist, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), a pilot study by ICMR on newborn screening found an incidence of one in 727 of Congenital Hypothyroidism and one in 2,036 of Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia. She stressed the need for a public screening programme.

Newborn screening could help to identify metabolic disorders in high-risk babies, S. Suresh, managing trustee of Fetal Care Research Foundation said.

As part of National Newborn Week — observed from November 15 to 21 — Fetal Care Research Foundation organised an awareness programme, in which 47 medical officers from Chennai Corporation participated.

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