Newborns in Manitoba to be screened for rare genetic diseases

All babies born in Manitoba will now be screened for an additional set of rare genetic diseases.

Newborn disease screening in the province will now include Severe Combined Immune Deficiency, which affects a child’s immune system.

“Newborn screening looks for easily detectable and preventable diseases linked to inherited and non-heritable disorders,” said health minister Cameron Friesen Thursday.

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“Many of these conditions are very uncommon or rare. Early detection and treatment can help prevent irreversible impacts to a child.”

SCID affects about 1 in 60,000 newborns around the world, but in Manitoba, the rate is much higher, at about 1 in 16,000. About half of those cases are found in Mennonite and northern Cree populations, with mutations that are only found in Manitoba.

Those with these diseases are prone to early and severe infections and cannot be immunized. In order to be treated, they need a bone marrow transplant, usually before the age of 2.

The screenings will start in 2020 and will cost about $440,000 annually to run, said Friesen. The costs are expected to be offset by savings from reduced costs for treatment, thanks to catching the diseases earlier.

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