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Newborn Screening for Cystic Fibrosis in Canada Shows Benefits

Pictured above: Amelia Ann Steeves from Victoria, BC, who was born in the fall of 2011 and diagnosed with CF by newborn screening, shown in the first picture as a baby, and in the second picture at age 4.

A recent study by a team including Cystic Fibrosis Canada’s Dr. Denise Mak, Program Manager of Healthcare, examined the impact of newborn screening for cystic fibrosis (CF) in Canada. Newborn screening for CF involves testing a blood spot taken from the newborn during the first few days of life for common CF mutations. If the test is positive, the family is referred to one of the 42 CF clinics across Canada for further testing, and upon diagnostic confirmation, education and treatment begin, typically within the first six weeks of life.

Newborn screening for CF is standard practice in several European countries, Australia, New Zealand and most of North America, with the exception of Quebec and Mexico. The authors hope that this study will provide further evidence to support advocacy efforts for newborn screening programs for CF.

THE STUDY

The study involved a total of 303 children with CF over a six year period, from 2008 to 2013. Researchers compared 201 children with CF from Alberta and Ontario who were screened as newborns, with 102 children with CF from Quebec who were not screened and were diagnosed only after showing symptoms of the disease.

Findings included:

  • Children who received newborn screening for CF had better overall growth in height and weight, which is linked to better long-term health.
  • They also had fewer Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphylococcus aureus bacterial lung infections.
  • Fewer hospitalizations due to lung infection flare-ups.
  • Shorter hospital stays.

Children who were not screened as newborns had higher rates of pancreatic insufficiency, which causes difficulty in absorbing nutrients from food. They also attended fewer CF clinics.

Overall, the study showed that newborn screening for CF leads to better long-term health in people with CF in the first five years of life compared to those diagnosed clinically. Newborn screening is an important part of the clinical approach to improving health outcomes for people with CF.

To access the article abstract from the Journal of Cystic Fibrosis, please click here.

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