From 2020, the NHS plans to ask parents if they want their newborn babies tested to check for any inherited diseases and any risk of illness in later life. This new test will give doctors the opportunity to confirm and treat thousands of rare genetic conditions, including cystic fibrosis, sickle cell disease and Huntington’s, from birth. The screening process checks for inherited diseases in babies.
The results from the testing will go onto children’s medical records, which could affect the drugs and lifestyle advice that they receive later on in life.
Close to 3,000 of the 660,000 babies born each year in England and Wales are said to have a treatable, early-onset disease.
One in 260 newborns born in the UK each year develops a serious disease that could be treated win the first five years of their lives.
The results could also reveal children who are at an increased risk of cancer, Alzheimer’s and heart disease throughout their lifetime.
A Government-owned genetics service, Genomics England, is working with the NHS to kickstart this project next year.
The test will be available to all within three years if the revolutionary NHS pilot scheme is successful, and will be done alongside the heel prick test for nine illnesses.
This “whole genomic sequencing” scheme would be a world first, if spread nationwide.
Genomics England chief executive, Chris Wigley, said: “The benefits of this test can play out over the course of someone’s life
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Mr Wigley expressed hopes for 20,000 parents to take up the offer to have their newborn’s genome analysed.
This pilot scheme is linked to the 100,000 Genomes project, which was launched by David Cameron in 2012 after his sone Ivan died from a rare neurological disorder.
Once the 100,000 target was met last December, the NHS set a new goal of five million genomes to be sequenced over the next five years
Mark Caulfield, Genomics England’s chief scientist, told the Daily Mirror: “What we want to show is there is a new opportunity for children in our nation to have something that stops some of the worst diseases.
“A third of children with a rare disease will die before their fifth birthday. We want to change that and change it for ever.”
It was revealed in January that all children with cancer will be offered the test by the end of the year.
Following these health advances, health Secretary, Matt Hancock, has said that the NHS is “on the cusp of a healthcare revolution”.