In late May, the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) formally began screening all babies born in Texas for 24 additional health conditions that can cause serious problems like developmental delays, major illness or even death.
In all, Texas babies are now screened for 53 rare disorders through a blood test analyzed at the state’s public health laboratory in Austin. Newborns are also screened for hearing loss and critical congenital heart defects.
“Newborn screening in Texas started in 1963 as a small pilot program for just one disorder, PKU,” says Susan Tanksley, DSHS laboratory operations manager. “Expanding the program means many babies will lead normal lives with early treatment.”
The change was prompted by House Bill 1795 of the 81st Legislature. DSHS has determined that it can conduct the additional screenings within its current budget.
Texas operates the largest newborn screening program in the nation, testing nearly 400,000 babies annually. The newborn tests are done on a blood sample drawn by a simple heel stick within 48 hours of birth and again at one to two weeks of age. The screenings added with the secondary panel will not require any more blood to be drawn.