Queensland to introduce genetic testing for newborns

Minister for Health and Ambulance Services The Honourable Yvette D'Ath

Queensland is set to expand its newborn screening program to include two serious genetic conditions – Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) and Severe Combined Immunodeficiency (SCID).

Minister for Health and Ambulance Services Yvette D’Ath said Queensland’s introduction of testing for SMA and SCID would improve the quality of life and life expectancy of babies diagnosed with either of the two conditions.

Minister D’Ath said the new testing capabilities would begin operation in May 2023 and be available for use on all heel prick samples soon after.

“Every baby born in Queensland is already screened, free of charge, for 25 conditions through a simple heel prick test performed after birth,” Minister D’Ath said.

“Right now, our equipment is unable to test for genetic conditions like SMA and SCID.

“Testing for SMA and SCID would improve the quality of life and life expectancy of babies diagnosed with either of the two conditions.

“That’s why the Queensland Government is investing $1.6 million to expand the screening program and a further $1.25 million each year to maintain it.

“This funding will be used to purchase new genetic testing equipment, upskill pathology staff and test tens of thousands of Queensland babies born each year for SMA and SCID.”

SMA is a condition that affects the muscles involved in movement, such as swallowing, breathing and general movement. The muscles progressively weaken and become wasted over time.

SCID is a very rare genetic and potentially life-threatening disorder that affects the immune system, increasing a child’s risk to certain infections.

“Babies who are born with these diseases have a very poor prognosis, but early intervention and treatment can make all the difference to their lives,” Minister D’Ath said.

“Importantly, screening will continue to be made available for free to every Queensland parent.”

Minister D’Ath highlighted the future potential of the new genetic testing capacity in light of the federal Albanese Government’s $38 million election commitment to expand and standardise newborn screening across the nation.

“The new Albanese Government has made a commitment to assist the states in expanding newborn screening to around 80 conditions,” Minister D’Ath said.

“The investment we are announcing today will put Queensland in the best position to take advantage of that federal funding.

“I’ll be following up with my federal counterpart Minister Mark Butler in the coming weeks to get the ball rolling.”

Minister D’Ath thanked the parents and groups who advocated strongly SMA and SCID testing.

“The passion and commitment of advocates has not gone unnoticed, and future parents will be in their debt for the work they have done,” she said.

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