Quick Blood Test to Spot SCID In Infants

March 22, 2011
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UCSF doctors have developed a test that, using just a drop of blood taken within hours of a baby’s birth, can determine whether that child has a rare but potentially fatal immune deficiency disorder.

UCSF doctors have developed a test that, using just a drop of blood taken within hours of a baby’s birth, can determine whether that child has a rare but potentially fatal immune deficiency disorder.

Severe combined immunodeficiency disorder, or SCID, is also known as the “bubble boy disease,” after the famous case of a Texas boy who lived most of his 12 years in large, plastic bubbles to protect him from infection. Without treatment, most babies die from infection when they’re just months old. If they survive, they are often destined to a life in isolation.

If babies are diagnosed within weeks of birth, they can get a bone marrow transplant that will let them grow a new immune system to replace the faulty one, essentially curing the disease.

That is why doctors are trying to get the blood test added to the state of California’s newborn screening program, a move that will require legislative approval. “Some other states are getting on board, and they may be doing it kicking and screaming, because they don’t have an extra dime to spend. But it’s so important from a medical point of view, and we believe it’ll be cost-effective,” said Dr. Jennifer Puck, a pediatric immunologist with UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital, who developed the screening test for SCID. “These babies, when they come in with infections, they have a $1 million hospital bill before they even get the transplant,” she said. “With screening, we’ll get useful, healthy citizens and not huge hospital bills their whole lives.”

Medical Companies making headway in immunodeficiency viruses include Calypte Biomedical, Advanced Life Sciences, Aethlon Medical, and Ardea Biosciences.

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