Health Scan: New center to screen all babies for metabolic disorders

A modern center to screen the blood of all babies born in Israel for debilitating and deadly metabolic and endocrinological diseases has been dedicated at Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer.

baby 88 (photo credit: )
baby 88
(photo credit: )
A modern center to screen the blood of all babies born in Israel for debilitating and deadly metabolic and endocrinological diseases has been dedicated at Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer. Named for Sigi and Marilyn Ziering of Los Angeles, who donated much of the $7 million raised for the center, the vital project replaces and old screening facility and centralizes the testing of blood from all newborns regardless of race, religion or national origin. By next year, the Health Ministry will assume all the center's operating costs. All 150,000 babies born each year around the country have a drop of blood taken from the heel of one foot a day after birth. If treated properly during the first months of life, doctors can prevent the mental retardation, blindness or death that might otherwise result from these diseases. The center has American-made, state-of-the-art technology and advanced work protocols provided by an international scientific advisory panel. Marilyn Ziering, widow of Sigi, dedicated the center two weeks ago, accompanied by a 40-person mission of Sheba friends from the US West Coast. "I am thrilled to be able to contribute to the health of Israel's kids in this way, she said. "I know laboratories, and this is a good laboratory!" she declared. For the past half century, the Ziering family has owned and operated DPC Medical Technologies of California, a major diagnostic kit manufacturer. Dr. Kenneth Pass, former director of New York State's neonatal screening program and a key advisor to the new Sheba lab, came to take part in the dedication. "Not only has it been an honor and a pleasure to help Israel get its screening center off the ground, but NY State benefited from this collaboration as well," he said. "I salute you for the magnificent center you have built to the highest international standards." Dr. Shlomo Almashanu, director of the Sigi and Marilyn Ziering Israel National Center for Newborn Screening at the Sheba Medical Center, told the 100 guests at the dedication that in recent months the center had identified and saved the lives of newborns with congenital hypothyroidism, PKU, congenital adrenal hyperplasia and VLCAD. "We even caught a confirmed case of glutaric aciduria type I in a baby born to a Palestinian mother, who told the genetic counselor about three previous babies who had died without a diagnosis," he said. POMEGRANATES AGAINST BACTERIA, CAVITIES Two students at Touro College's Lander College of Arts and Sciences in Brooklyn, New York say they have discovered that bacteria that cause cavities in teeth and the viruses that plague hospitals can be destroyed by properties in pomegranate juice. The students, Zev Zelman and Elliot Lutz, have been invited to present their research at the 108th general meeting of the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center on June 4. The ASM is the world's oldest and largest life science membership organization, with more than 43,000 members. Both young men will graduate in June, and plan to study dentistry. Working with Dr. Milton Schiffenbauer, a professor of microbiology at Pace University who also teaches at Touro, they studied the antibacterial and antiviral effects of 34 natural beverages. After 10 months of research, they concluded that some beverages, most notably pomegranate juice, efficiently inactivate the bacteria that cause cavities and bacterium that commonly occur in hospitals and locker rooms. These natural additives also inactivate a bacterial virus that affects E. coli. The research suggests other pathogenic viruses may be equally affected. "There is still a lot of work to be done, but we are excited by the prospect that common health problems may be solved with natural ingredients, avoiding the complications of antibiotics," said Lutz.