Complex Made Simple

Dubai Health Authority reinforces importance of neonatal screening

It is mandatory for all new-borns to undergo health screenings after 48 hours of birth.

The Dubai Health Authority’s primary healthcare sector is educating the public about the vital importance of neonatal screening.

The child health unit of the primary healthcare centre provides crucial neonatal screening services for all new-born babies in order to detect certain genetic, endocrine, and metabolic disorders.

It is mandatory for all new-borns to undergo health screenings after 48 hours of birth. New-borns who are born in DHA’s hospitals and are discharged earlier than 48 hours are booked with DHA’s primary healthcare and samples for this screening, which is done with a simple heel prick, are collected at the time of appointment. Samples of new-borns discharged earlier than 48 hours are collected from the hospital. This guarantees 100 per cent compliance.

Dr Manal Al Taryam, CEO of Primary Healthcare at the DHA, said: “This screening is absolutely essential. The newborn screening test can tell you if your baby has any hereditary or hormonal problems. Most of the diseases which we screen for during the first week of birth are treatable diseases which means if we diagnose it early on, treatment is very simple and the child can lead a normal life. But if it goes undiagnosed, children can have complications such as growth retardation, mental retardation and the child loses all chances of having a normal life.”

Dr Nahed Monsef, director of health affairs department at DHA’s primary healthcare sector, said: “Neonatal screening(NNS) by heel prick started in DHA in 2003 with screening for congenital hypothyroidism and phenylketonuria (PKU) . Sickle cell disease screening was added to NNS in 2005 and Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia in 2007. From 2011 tandem mass spectrometry (MS/MS) which is capable of multi-analyte analysis , has enabled new-born screening to detect many more disorders.

“A total of 116,864 babies have been screened since 2003 . Parents are informed about abnormal results within seven days of the test and are directed to hospitals for further investigation and confirmation of diagnosis.”

“The number of cases detected include 101 cases of congenital hypothyroidism, 17 of PKU, 32 of congenital adrenal hyperplasia and 64 cases of sickle cell disease.

“From 2005 to 2015, more than 2081 sickle cell trait cases have been identified and parents of these babies have been referred for genetic counselling in DHA health centres.”

Dr Fatma Sultan Al Olama, consultant and head of child health care unit at DHA’s primary healthcare sector, said: “All these disorders can have serious clinical consequences for the young infant. If undiagnosed and untreated, these disorders can cause irreversible mental retardation (ranging from mild to severe), physical disability, neurological damage and even fatality. Early detection (soon after birth) and an accurate diagnosis are very important for achieving a rapid and favourable outcome.”