All Newborns to be Tested for Sickle-Cell
All newborn babies are to be tested for sickle cell disease as part of the standard heel prick test.
The heel prick test, which has routinely been performed to test for a range of other diseases such as cystic fibrosis, involves pricking the baby's heel to collect some small drops of blood. A midwife normally does this within the baby's first few weeks.
Sickle cell, so called because of the altered shape of the red blood cells, affects the oxygen carrying capacity of the blood and can vary in severity. In England about 12,500 people are affected and about 240,000 are carriers of the faulty genes that cause it. Sickle-Cell can cause serious medical problems and in worst cases, death.
It is thought that the test will identify 300 new cases in babies each year. In The UK, Sickle cell disease has always been associated with people of Caribbean or African origin. However, with the increased number of mixed relationships, anyone could potentially be a carrier or sufferer.
Allison Streetly, director of the NHS Sickle Cell & Thalassaemia Screening Programme, said screening was crucial to spot those at risk. She said, "It is no longer possible to assume who may or may not be affected."
It has also been recommended that all pregnant women in England should also be offered a blood test in early pregnancy to check whether they carry a gene for sickle cell anaemia or a similar blood disorder called thalassaemia, and genetic counselling provided for those who do.