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Norwegian minister calls for indefinite storage of newborns' blood samples

Xinhua, April 21, 2017 Adjust font size:

Norway's health minister Bent Hoie wants to save newborns' blood samples for an indefinite period of time, newspaper Aftenposten reported Friday.

All Norwegian infants are tested for 23 different diseases by taking a sample of blood from the their heels when they are few days old, and so far these samples would be deleted after six years.

The health minister will send a proposal for consultation on permanent storage of blood tests before summer, which will terminate the current requirement to delete the samples after six years, Aftenposten wrote.

Indefinite storage of newborns' blood samples shall be used for health care, quality assurance, method development and research.

"We have received feedback from the institute of public health and researchers that storage of samples can play a crucial role in the future research. It can be expanded to cover several rare diseases that require early treatment," Hoie said.

The minister expressed belief that both diagnosis and treatment of rare diseases can be improved by having a blood bank.

"The unique with the samples from the newborn screening is that they show how the child is doing early in life. Because the biochemistry in the blood is different in newborns than in adults, a potential new and better screening method must be tested on blood samples from newborns," he said.

The minister added that "it is important that there is a large material available for research and a six-year cohort means too small number of patients to assure quality and improve today's test methods."

Newborns are currently investigated for 23 rare severe congenital diseases through the newborn screening. Most are metabolic disorders. Even though these are rare conditions, about 1 in 1,000 children in Norway will be born with one of the 23 conditions in the screening panel, Aftenposten wrote.

Children are usually born without signs of disease, and testing is therefore the only way to detect these diseases. Endit