Alberta to Begin Screening Newborns for Four New Conditions

by Shelagh McGregor

Alberta to Begin Screening Newborns for Four New Conditions

Alberta Health Services officially introduced the screening for four new metabolic health conditions for every newborn child starting in late May, and the impact of these new tests were almost immediate felt through the diagnosis of a baby boy with Severe Combined Immunodeficiency (SCID) in early July.

The boy’s name is Hudson Cowie, and he was born on June 23rd and given the standard screening tests that all Canadian children are provided in order to check for any potential health conditions. The Stollery Children’s Hospital in Edmonton was then able to diagnose baby Hudson with SCID just a little over a week after his birth.

Hudson was the very first child to be diagnosed with SCID through the recently improved newborn blood spot screening, which the boy’s father Ian Cowie says saved his boy’s life. To learn more about Hudson’s case, read his story in the Edmonton Journal.

What is Severe Combined Immunodeficiency (SCID)?

SCID is a very rare condition that is also known as the “bubble boy disease” primarily due to infants being born without an adequately functioning immune system. Without the newly established testing for SCID, the condition would generally go unnoticed until the child presents with serious infections that don’t resolve themselves naturally.

What’s so devastating about the previous lack of the expanded screening is that it’s usually detected only when a serious amount of damage has been done, which typically leads to worse outcomes for infants because they’re coping with nearly unbeatable infections that their bodies simply can’t fight back against.

How Screening for Conditions Can Help Families Sooner

SCID is one of the four new disorders that have recently been added to the list of conditions that all newborns in Alberta are screened for, with the other three being tyrosinemia type 1, sickle cell anemia and lactase deficiency. In order to conduct these tests, each baby has a few blood drops collected from their heel within about 24 hours from their birth. This blood sample is then sent to the University of Alberta hospital, which just so happens to be the only newborn metabolic disease-testing site within the province.

If a newborn tests positive for any of the 21 tested conditions, the parents are immediately notified so that the child’s treatment can begin as quickly as possible, which was the life-changing scenario for Hudson Cowie.

Hudson has now been placed in isolation, which means he’s not allowed to leave his home and his parents and two caregivers are the only ones allowed to have contact with him. He’ll soon receive a bone marrow transplant, and then undergo another six months of isolation while he recovers. After this recovery period it is very likely that Hudson will be more than capable of living a healthy life.

“Getting to these infants early, before they actually get sick, means that their outcome is that much better,” said Alberta Public Laboratories’ Dr. Sherry Taylor in a July interview with CBC News.

Taylor also said that it took about 18 months and over $2 million to create the screening expansion for the four new disorders, which included the hiring of the staff, creating the space and buying the necessary equipment to test for the four new conditions.

There’s no doubt that these expanded screenings will save and vastly improve many lives like Hudson Cowie’s, and one other SCID diagnosis was made since Hudson’s diagnosis, according to a staff member at Alberta Public Laboratories.

Contact Our Birth Injury Legal Specialists For More Information

There are countless situations that necessitate legal action when it comes to your newborn’s health and medical treatment, which is why our team of Canadian Birth Injury Lawyers is here to help you navigate your way through these types of complicated medical malpractice consultations.

If you have any questions about birth injuries or the newborn screening process, feel free to reach out to us for a free consultation.


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