The Newborn Screening has been one of the great advances in preventive medicine. Prenatal screening can be useful for detecting birth defects such as spina bifida, anencephaly or other conditions such as Down syndrome and chromosomal abnormalities. Whereas genetic testing for hereditary conditions that the baby may have, what about the other non-genetic diseases?
What are the options?
As far as non-genetic disease prediction is concerned, the most successful method is the New Born Screening, which is a test designed with the sole purpose of detecting birth conditions in mind. Unlike genetic testing, the range of diseases that can be detected by the same include Organic Acid or Amino Acid Disorders, Hormonal Abnormalities, Haemoglobin Disorders, Hearing Problems and Fatty Acid Oxidation Abnormalities. This is in addition to the genetic diseases that can also be detected. Newborn screening is also easy to perform and all it takes is a few drops of blood taken from a small prick on the heel of the baby, anywhere between 24 to 48 hours after birth.
Is this really important?
Neonatal deaths weren’t considered as a major threat that needed addressing until a few years ago. People were aware that babies do die after birth due to various reasons, but the exact scale of this was unknown. It was not until 2013, when WHO released the figures for neonatal deaths. There were a total of 2.75 million deaths in the year, which was just the reported cases. WHO predicted that the actual figures would be over 3 million. Of these almost a million were preterm birth complications with another million deaths occurring due to neonatal sepsis and birth asphyxia. The cause is not so much as important as the fact that these are all treatable diseases had the doctors known in advance.
Has the situation improved?
On the whole? Yes, the situation has improved. Screening is done on over 90 percent of babies born in developing and developed nations worldwide. Statistics show that out of the 4.5 million babies born annually in the US in the last year, 98 percent were screened for various inherited conditions. The tests are also much more comprehensive. Whereas earlier only important tests such as Galactosemia, Maple Syrup Urine Disease, Phenylketonuria, Homocystinuria, Sickle cell disease, Biotinidase deficiency, Hypothyroidism, and Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia were tested, modern tests require a lot more diseases to be tested for. The entire list of diseases tested for depends on the facilities available at the hospital where the baby is born. Most of these tests are based on the principle of tandem mass spectrometry. Developed countries have already made tandem mass spectrometry a compulsory health strategy for the public with developing countries also pushing for the same. The tests carried out may also vary from country to country. Sadly, the fact remains that underdeveloped nations where even healthcare facilities for adults are lacking, are completely in the dark about neonatal care.
How is the economic situation turning out?
Whenever it comes to any market, the growth model is the Asia Pacific region. Asia Pacific region usually has the highest growth rate for most markets and this is no exception. It is expected to grow as a new revenue for the newborn screening market in the coming years.
Looking at countries in particular, India, a country where infant mortality rates are higher than what is considered acceptable for a country of such stature, the situation is vastly improving. Figures show that 7 out of every 100 babies born in India are affected by deficiencies. This problem has already been addressed in some regions. The states of Kerala, Gujarat and Goa have already introduced mandatory newborn screening funded by the government. Sadly, this is not case across the nation.
Coming to the largest market share holder, North America. NBS is already a very successful program in the North America and all that is needed is to perfect the technique. Same can be said for Europe which has almost identical market trends as compared to North America and only small differences in the volume of revenue are prevalent.
All in all, the newborn screening market is showing tremendous growth rate in recent years due to technological advancements and favourable government policies and would be a good area to invest for potential new entrants looking at the industry.
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