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Tuesday, 9 October, 2001, 08:09 GMT 09:09 UK
Cystic fibrosis testing planned
Newborn baby
All babies will be tested from next April
All new-born babies in Scotland will be tested for the inherited disease cystic fibrosis from April next year.

The move, announced by the Scottish Executive, will mean that the 20 to 30 children born with the disease every year can be treated before lung damage occurs.

Cystic fibrosis is a chronic inherited disease, which causes the lungs to produce too much mucus, and prevents the body from digesting fat.

It can be controlled through physiotherapy and medication but too often diagnosis is only made once a child has developed a serious chest infection and lung damage has occurred.

Susan Deacon
Susan Deacon: "Early diagnosis"
Health Minister Susan Deacon announced on Tuesday that from next April, all babies in Scotland will be tested for the condition.

She said: "This new national screening programme will ensure that children are diagnosed with cystic fibrosis soon after birth, meaning that treatment can begin earlier and so be more effective.

"Sadly, we cannot prevent a child being born with cystic fibrosis but, through early diagnosis, we can ensure that treatment is given at the earliest possible stage and that parents are given the information and support they need to care for their child.

"Early treatment will help to combat malnourishment, allowing the child to become more developed and better equipped to fight this condition.

"This can help delay the onset of life-threatening chronic infections and illnesses."

'Terrible condition'

There is no cure for cystic fibrosis but drug therapy can prove effective in controlling symptoms if they are prescribed early enough.

The move is in line with a pre-election promise by the Labour Party to screen all babies in the UK by 2004.

It has been welcomed by the National Cystic Fibrosis Trust (NCFT) which has long campaigned for screening at birth.

Early treatment will help to combat malnourishment, allowing the child to become more developed and better equipped to fight this condition

Health Minister Susan Deacon
The trust's Rosie Barnes said: "It will save many children from undue suffering.

"Testing will ensure that all those suffering from cystic fibrosis will get the care that they deserve from birth.

"It will considerably enhance their life prospects and increase life expectancy amongst those who suffer from this terrible condition."

At present, only 20% of new-born babies are screened for cystic fibrosis.

The average life expectancy for a patient is 30 years. Approximately 7,500 people in the UK have the inherited condition.

However, scientists believe they are closer than ever to a cure for cystic fibrosis.

It is widely predicted that the condition will be one of the first to be controlled through gene therapy.

"From April, a blood spot will be put through an extra examination."
See also:

30 Apr 01 | Health
Cystic fibrosis screening for all
04 Oct 00 | Health
'Designer baby' ethics fear
21 Sep 00 | Health
Two-day test for birth defects
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