Health council seeks broader disease screen for newborns

The number of diseases and medical conditions newborns are tested for should increase from 17 to 30, says the Netherlands health council, NOS reports. The council, known as the Gezondheidsraad, finds that broadening the "hielprik", a Guthrie test that screens a blood sample taken from a baby's heel, is relevant since new treatments have emerged in the past few years for a number of rare diseases.

For some diseases, drugs have been developed. Others can be treated with stem cell transplants or diet modification. Incurable diseases will not be screened for, although it is important to discover them in time and to avoid wrong treatment, says Nos.

The council maintains that every disease should be treated. They state that it comes at the expense of the program as a whole when parents hear their child has an untreatable condition.

"You [can] also test for other diseases, ones whose symptoms may occur later, during adulthood," health council president Pim van Gool is quoted as saying in an interview with NPO Radio 1.

Minister of Health Edith Schippers has yet to decide whether she will act on the health council's advice, though she has a record of following its recommendations.