What are the benefits of screening for sickle cell disease in newborn babies?
Various tests are available for newborn babies in Germany. At the end of 2020, the German Federal Joint Committee (G-BA) decided to introduce a test for sickle cell disease too, so that treatment can be started sooner in affected newborns. One study suggests that this can reduce the number of deaths in children who have sickle cell disease.
The aim of screening tests is to detect diseases sooner so that they can be treated more effectively. In Germany, special guidelines specify what is to be tested in children, and how.
A test known as the expanded newborn test is done when babies are 2 or 3 days old. A few drops of blood are taken, usually from one of their heels. The drops of blood are placed onto special filter paper to check whether the baby has been born with certain medical conditions affecting their metabolism, or immune system. If anything abnormal is detected, the baby's parents are informed immediately.
The German Federal Joint Committee (G-BA) decided that the blood should be tested for sickle cell disease too. This test is now a part of the expanded newborn test in Germany. It is paid for by statutory health insurers.