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Newborn Screening Program in the Philippines: Important Facts

Newborn Screening Program in the Philippines: Important Facts

The classic poster1 for the Newborn Screening Program in the Philippines features two kids – a healthy 7-year-old girl and a 14-year-old boy in a wheelchair who seemingly exhibit slow growth and intellectual disability. Both children have congenital hypothyroidism, a condition that leads to inadequate thyroid hormone.

Details in the poster reveal that the girl underwent Newborn Screening (NBS) and tested positive for congenital hypothyroidism but got treated immediately. On the other hand, the boy did not undergo NBS and failed to receive the medical care he needed.

newborn screening program in the philippines

If your family is expecting a little bundle of joy, here’s what you need to know about the Newborn Screening Program in the Philippines

Newborn screening is a life-saver

The most important fact to know about the Newborn Screening Test is that it’s a life-saver. With this procedure, doctors can detect congenital conditions such as hormonal and metabolic disorders that can lead to various “medical conditions” later on.

Many infants with serious metabolic disorders may appear healthy at birth, leading parents to believe that their little one is okay. As a result, the child doesn’t receive immediate care that could prevent possible health conditions, which have grave consequences in the future.

We now have the “expanded” NBS

Initially, NBS only tests for six disorders, namely:

  • Congenital hypothyroidism – insufficient thyroid hormones that could lead to slow growth and intellectual disability.
  • Phenylketonuria – an inherited disorder where children cannot breakdown the amino acid phenylalanine, which can lead to brain damage.
  • Congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH) a group of genetic disorders affecting the adrenal glands – structures that produce vital hormones. Babies with CAH lack one enzyme to make these vital hormones and are at risk of adrenal crisis, a life-threatening condition.
  • Glucose-6 phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD) deficiency – an inherited condition where babies lack the G6PD enzyme. This can result in hemolytic anemia, which can be fatal when not properly treated.
  • Galactosemia – the inability to metabolize galactose, a type of sugar commonly found in breastmilk. This condition can be life-threatening if not treated early.
  • Maple syrup urine disease – Like phenylketonuria, babies with MSUD cannot metabolize specific proteins. Infants with this condition have maple-smelling urine. Left untreated, MSUD can be fatal.

Fortunately, we now have the Expanded Newborn Screening (ENBS) Program in the Philippines. The ENBS tests for at least 22 additional disorders like amino acid disorders and hemoglobinopathies, which affect the shape and number of red blood cells.

Newborn screening is a simple procedure

It is important to note that the test is quick and simple.

A healthcare professional (doctor, nurse, a trained midwife, or medical technologist) will only collect blood samples from your baby’s heel. They then blot the blood on a special absorbent paper and bring the specimen to the National Screening Center.

The test is time-sensitive

The crucial question is, “When should the newborn screening be done in the Philippines?”.

Keep in mind that the test is time-sensitive. The blood has to be collected immediately – usually 24 to 48 hours after birth, before mother and child leave the lying-in clinic or hospital.Some pediatricians / pediatric endocrinologist prefer 48 hours because of the stabilization of hormones at that point

ENBS is part of the Newborn Care Package under PhilHealth

The ENBS costs about PHP1,750, but parents can avail it under PhilHealth’s Newborn Care Package if the newborn is eligible. Newborn babies are eligible if they meet all these criteria:

  • One of their parents is an eligible PhilHealth Member.
  • They were born in PhilHealth-accredited facilities.
  • You avail of the service right after the delivery.

There is a waiting time for the results

Results of the ENBS are usually available from 1 to 2 months after the National Screening Center received the specimen.

Negative or normal results can be claimed in the hospital or lying-in clinic where the test was conducted. If the results are positive – meaning the doctor found something, the healthcare facility will contact you immediately so your baby can undergo further assessment.

For this reason, the contact details you provide must be correct and updated.

The doctor might ask for a repeat test

Another important thing that you should know about ENBS is that the doctor might ask for a repeat test, especially for premature babies.

Other scenarios that may need a repeat test include insufficient blood samples or tests that give unclear results.

Learn more about Baby Care here.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

1) Newborn Screening Reference Center
https://www.newbornscreening.ph/index.php?option=com_content&view=frontpage&Itemid=56
Accessed March 4, 2021

2) EXPANDED NEWBORN SCREENING PANEL
https://www.newbornscreening.ph/images/stories/ResourcesTechnicalDocuments/enbs-panel.pdf
Accessed March 4, 2021

3) NEWBORN SCREENING PROGRAM
https://doh.gov.ph/newborn-screening
Accessed March 4, 2021

4) BASIC INFORMATION ABOUT NEWBORN SCREENING
https://www.newbornscreening.ph/index.php?option=com_content&view=section&layout=blog&id=3&Itemid=60
Accessed March 4, 2021

5) Phenylketonuria
https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/phenylketonuria/#:~:text=Phenylketonuria%20(PKU)%20is%20a%20rare,to%20make%20our%20own%20proteins.

6) Congenital adrenal hyperplasia
https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/congenital-adrenal-hyperplasia/symptoms-causes/syc-20355205
Accessed March 4, 2021

7) Galactosemia Symptoms & Causes
https://www.childrenshospital.org/conditions-and-treatments/conditions/g/galactosemia/symptoms-and-causes
Accessed March 4, 2021

8) Maple syrup urine disease
https://medlineplus.gov/genetics/condition/maple-syrup-urine-disease/
Accessed March 4, 2021

9) Newborn screening
https://raisingchildren.net.au/newborns/health-daily-care/health-concerns/newborn-screening#when-newborn-screening-needs-to-be-repeated-nav-title
Accessed March 4, 2021

10) AB058. Newborn screening in preterm babies at the Newborn Screening Center-National Institutes of Health, Manila: impact, implications, and outcomes on its first year of implementation
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4563480/
Accessed March 4, 2021

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Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. Updated Jun 17
Medically reviewed by Ruben Macapinlac, MD, DPPS
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