Texas Expands Newborn Health Screening Program

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The Texas Department of State Health Services today formally began screening all babies born in Texas for 24 additional health conditions that can cause serious problems like developmental delays, major illness or even death.

The addition of the secondary newborn screening conditions means that all Texas babies are now screened for 53 rare disorders through a blood test analyzed at the state’s public health laboratory in Austin. Newborns in Texas are also screened for hearing loss and critical congenital heart defects at the hospital or birthing center where the birth occurred.

“Newborn screening in Texas started in 1963 as a small pilot program for just one disorder, PKU,” said Susan Tanksley, DSHS laboratory operations manager. “Expanding the program to more than 50 conditions means more babies can receive immediate follow up leading to a quick diagnosis and the ability to offer babies life-saving treatment. Many babies will lead normal lives with early treatment.”

The Texas Newborn Screening Program was already able to detect many of the secondary conditions because they share the same substances in the blood as some of the primary newborn screening conditions. Today’s changes, however, will allow for more complete identification, follow up and treatment of those conditions and six others that were previously undetectable. Some children diagnosed with secondary conditions will be able to access newborn screening benefits, a DSHS program that provides services for children identified with a newborn screening disorder.

The change was prompted by House Bill 1795 of the 81st Legislature, which directed DSHS to add the conditions as funding allows. DSHS has determined that it can conduct the additional screenings within its current budget.

Texas operates the largest newborn screening program in the nation, testing approximately 775,000 specimens per year, or nearly 400,000 babies annually. The newborn screening tests are done on a blood sample drawn by a simple heel stick within 48 hours of birth and again at one to two weeks of age. The screenings added with the secondary panel will not require any more blood to be drawn. Since 1963, Texas has detected about 13,000 cases of genetic and congenital disorders in babies.

Misty Boggs
Misty Boggs is the Creative Director at MSGPR. She lives in Angelina County and recently earned her bachelor's degree in Public Relations and a minor in Creative Writing at Stephen F. Austin State University in 2020. She is currently working on obtaining her MBA from Lamar University. Between studying and working, she enjoys teaching her niece and nephew the fine art of never growing old.

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