Montefiore launches largest newborn screening program in U.S.

Pediatric genetic expert Dr. Melissa Wasserstein
Courtesy of Montefiore

Babies delivered at Montefiore’s Jack D. Weiler Hospital now have the chance to be tested for 14 additional rare disorders, on top of the standard 50 ones in the routine newborn screening panel.

The pilot program, called ScreenPlus, is free and uses the blood sample already taken from the baby’s heel, shortly after they are born. The goal is to identify rare diseases, enable earlier access to treatments and improve outcomes for children with serious and life-threatening diseases.

ScreenPlus is being led by pediatric genetic expert Dr. Melissa Wasserstein in conjunction with the New York State Newborn Screening Program and it will roll out in seven more hospitals across New York by the fall.

In total, about 175,000 newborns will be screened for the newly added diseases, all of which are potentially treatable. This is the largest newborn screening pilot study in the US, backed by $11.3 million in funding from the National Institutes of Health, industry sponsors and patient advocacy groups. The data obtained from the study will help to determine if any of the 14 disorders should be added to routine newborn screening panels nationwide.

“We’re not doing anything, but trying to help the baby,” Wasserstein said. “Why not participate.”

While the screening only began May 10, the doctor noted that parents are on board with the program.

Screenings are taken when the baby is 24 hours old and the hope is it can save lives, the doctor explained.

“The purpose of the new born screening is to diagnose babies with rare disorders that are treatable,” she stated. “It’s really important that parents are involved in this process.”


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