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Texas Begins Screening Newborns For Spinal Muscular Atrophy

HHS/DSHS News Release – June 1, 2021

The Texas Department of State Health Services today adds testing for spinal muscular atrophy to the health screening done for every baby born in Texas. About 1 in 10,000 babies are affected by SMA, and this new screening can detect about 95 percent of all SMA cases before symptoms occur.

SMA is an inherited condition that affects the cells in the spinal cord that signal the muscles to work. Over time, the muscles get weaker and activities such as crawling, walking, sitting up and controlling head movements become more difficult. Severe cases of SMA affect the muscles used for breathing and swallowing and can lead to early death. There is no cure for SMA but there are multiple FDA-approved treatments available that are effective if the condition is diagnosed early.

“Screening all Texas babies for spinal muscular atrophy will help identify more than 40 cases a year,” said DSHS Commissioner John Hellerstedt, MD. “Early detection will enable people with SMA to get life changing treatment before symptoms develop.”

The Texas Newborn Screening Laboratory tests nearly 800,000 specimens each year for close to 400,000 newborns. A simple heel stick blood sample collected from newborns one to two days after birth and again two weeks later enables testing of every Texas baby for 55 disorders or medical conditions. Finding and treating these disorders early can prevent serious complications, such as growth problems, developmental delays, deafness, blindness, intellectual disabilities, seizures and sudden or early death.

Author: Faith Huffman

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