Newborn screening bill expands testing for genetic disorders

Capitol Connection

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Every year, more than 100,000 babies born in Virginia are screened for genetic disorders. 

The state will soon be adding more disorders to the list thanks to a new bill passed by the General Assembly.

It’s a bill that could potentially save lives. 

Scientists at the Division of Consolidated Laboratory Services in Richmond (DCLS) check several blood samples each day. 

“We’re screening every baby that’s born in our state,” Willie Andrews said. 

Andrews, the Director of Laboratory Operations, has been doing this for three decades.  

“There is nothing better than knowing you have impacted a family’s life and a baby’s life and when we can identify a baby and get them into diagnostic care and treatment and know they will be happy and healthy, that’s our mission and that’s an awesome feeling,” Andrews said. 

Right now the DCLS test for 29 genetic disorders, but that number will go up. 

A bill adding Pompe disease and MPS-1 to the list passed this session.

Pompe disease, which can cause muscle weakness and heart defects, can start within a few months after birth. MPS-1 can lead to organ damage. 

“Even though many of our disorders that we’re screening for are pretty rare, they can be fatal,” Andrews admitted. 

The DCLS had been looking into including the additional disorders, even before the bill passed. 

Andrews says the legislation will allow them to get the additional staff and instrumentation they need. 

DCLS are working with the Department of Health to determine when exactly the testing will begin. 

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