Newborn baby [Illustrative].
(photo credit: INIMAGE)
Universal screening of newborns in hospital neonatal departments for severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID), hypothyroidism and a number of other diseases during the past year has saved eight infants from potentially fatal disorders.
The tests, taking a drop of blood from the heel of every baby the day after he or she is born and smearing it on a piece of paper for testing at Sheba Medical Center, has been carried out on all 180,000 babies born in 2016. It costs $10 per infant.
So said Prof. Raz Somech, director of the general pediatrics B department at the Tel Hashomer hospital and head of the Israel Society for Primary Immunodeficiency. He told The Jerusalem Post
on Wednesday that he tried to get the test included in the basket of health service three years in a row, but only last winter was it accepted as having high priority.
Babies with SCID, who used to die or be kept for years in “bubbles” because they lacked any immune system to protect them, undergo bone marrow transplants and are cured of the condition.
Until now, blood has been taken from newborns’ heels to test for a variety of other conditions including phenylketonuria (PKU, an inborn error of metabolism that results in reduced metabolism of the amino acid phenylalanine; if untreated, it can lead to intellectual disability, seizures, behavioral problems and mental disorder). In addition, all newborns are screened at birth for hearing problems as part of the basket of health services.
Somech was one of the 600 Israeli and foreign allergy and clinical immunology specialists to attend the three-day World Allergy Organization’s annual meeting, currently being held at the Jerusalem International Convention Center.
Prof. Nancy Agmon-Levin, president of the Israel Allergy and Clinical Immunology Association, told the Post at the conference that parents are now encouraged to expose babies to a wide variety of foods to prevent them from developing allergies later.
Even breast-fed infants should get some formula, processed from cow’s milk, so they don’t become allergic to cow’s milk later, she said.
Israeli children have a very low rate of peanut allergy, she said, because most babies and toddlers are given Bamba and other puffed-corn-and-peanut snacks. Well-baby centers now recommend that babies as young as three or four months be allowed to lick these snacks to avoid peanut allergies. It is also beneficial, she said, for young children to be exposed to pets such as a cat or dog or farm animals at young ages.