Gutwein’s bill to add SMA, SCID to newborn screenings advances to Senate
The House of Representatives recently voted unanimously in favor of State Rep. Douglas Gutwein’s (R-Francesville) bill that could save the lives of more children by adding two new tests to Indiana’s newborn screening panel.
Gutwein’s legislation would require spinal muscular atrophy, or SMA, and severe combined immunodeficiency, or SCID, to be added to the list of screenings newborns get in Indiana shortly after their births.
“If left undetected and untreated before symptoms arise, these diseases will progress to severe, if not deadly stages,” Gutwein said. “If we make testing automatic for newborns, physicians can begin a treatment plan almost immediately, providing these children and their families more hopeful outcomes.”
Spinal muscular atrophy is a severe genetic disorder that alters the motor nerve cells in the spinal cord. Those cells, once affected by SMA, will not regenerate, which then results in muscle weakness and can eventually lead to the inability to walk, talk, swallow and breathe.
Gutwein said out of the four types of SMA, the most severe and common is usually diagnosed within the first few months of an infant’s life. He said children who received treatment for SMA through a new FDA-approved drug therapy were able to achieve unprecedented motor milestones.
Severe combined immunodeficiency makes those affected highly susceptible to life-threatening infections caused by viruses, bacteria and fungi. SCID is often referred to as “bubble boy disease” due to the level of quarantine necessary to avoid infection. The syndrome usually results in the onset of one or more serious infections within the first few months of life, making detection at birth key. These infections are usually serious, and may be life-threatening, including pneumonia, meningitis or bloodstream infections. Children affected by SCID can also become ill from live viruses present in some vaccines. Gutwein said this syndrome makes it nearly impossible for a child to live a healthy life if it is not detected at birth.
According to CureSMA.org, approximately one in 11,000 babies are diagnosed with SMA. SCID affects approximately one in 500,000 births, according to the Indiana State Department of Health.
Gutwein said newborn screenings identify diseases in babies shortly after their births, providing opportunities for early interventions that can prevent death or the need for long-term care. In Indiana, newborns are already tested for 47 conditions, including sickle cell anemia, cystic fibrosis, hearing loss and critical congenital heart disease.
Gutwein’s bill can now be considered by the Senate. For more information, visit iga.in.gov.