University of Dundee, MSc Human Clinical Embryology and Assisted Conception - Apply now for September 2018
Page URL: https://www.bionews.org.uk/page_137920

Report warns against universal screening of babies' genomes

20 August 2018
Appeared in BioNews 963

The universal screening of babies' genomes at birth is not 'inevitable', according to a new report from a US bioethics organisation.

As the cost of genome sequencing falls, doctors and researchers are debating whether screening at birth would help plan personalised medical care and be a useful public health measure. But experts at the US non-profit organisation, the Hastings Centre in Garrison, New York, are urging that the use of this technology in newborns should be 'nuanced and attentive to context'.

While it is too early to screen every baby's genome, they added that there could be 'considerable benefit in using targeted sequencing to screen for or detect specific conditions'.

The report is unequivocal about universal screening. It recommends: 'Genome-wide sequencing should not be implemented as a universal, public health screening tool in newborns. Sequencing the entire genome may result in the return of genetic data of unknown or uncertain significance and may not yield actionable results.'

'Genomics is a powerful tool, but the results it returns are still not fully understood and have not been proven to advance health outside of very specific clinical situations,' said Josephine Johnston, director of research at the Hastings Centre, and co-editor of the report. 'The recommendations embrace the use of genomics to aid in the diagnosis of sick newborns, but they draw a sharp distinction between that kind of focused clinical use and population screening.'

The report also advised health professionals to warn parents against using direct-to-consumer (DTC) genome testing on their newborns. It said: 'The use of DTC genomic testing in children conflicts with clinical and professional guidelines, which limit testing to clinical contexts and for conditions that manifest during childhood.'

'Sequencing the genome of every newborn could cause parents to worry needlessly about their healthy baby,' added co-editor Professor Barbara Koenig at the University of California, San Francisco and a Hastings Centre Fellow.

The document is the result of a four-year interdisciplinary investigation funded by the US National Institutes of Health.

SOURCES & REFERENCES
Experts advise against universal genomic screening of newborns
News Medical |  16 August 2018
Sequencing Newborns: A Call for Nuanced Use of Genomic Technologies
The Hastings Center Report |  14 August 2018
Should all babies have their genomes sequenced?
Science Direct |  15 August 2018
RELATED ARTICLES FROM THE BIONEWS ARCHIVE
7 January 2019 - by Dr Barbara Kramarz 
A whole-genome sequencing trial for newborns in the US has published its initial results, detecting a genetic childhood-onset condition in almost 10 percent of babies...
15 October 2018 - by Annabel Slater 
DNA is effectively data. If we are concerned about the data stored on our phones and computers, on social media sites and government servers, should we extend our concern to our DNA? ...
13 August 2018 - by Charlott Repschlager 
Pre-implantation genetic testing of embryos does not improve IVF birth rates in older women, found the largest study of its kind yet...
18 June 2018 - by Charlott Repschlager 
Sixty-three novel gene variants linked to prostate cancer in men have been discovered...
8 May 2018 - by Anthony Ryb 
Should everyone stepping through their doctor's door enquiring about fertility treatment receive a counselling session? Probably not, although in most situations it would certainly be useful for them. Should everyone who has decided to go ahead with fertility treatment receive a counselling session prior to starting treatment? In my opinion, that is a definite yes...
5 March 2018 - by Dr Nicoletta Charolidi 
Two separate genomic studies of childhood cancers reveal differences compared with adult cancers, potentially opening new therapeutic avenues...
HAVE YOUR SAY
Log in to add a Comment.

By posting a comment you agree to abide by the BioNews terms and conditions


Syndicate this story - click here to enquire about using this story.