The National Health Service (NHS) in the United Kingdom has come up with a revolutionary move in healthcare. A new scheme will be launched next year to save the lives of thousands of babies who are at increased risk of several genetic diseases, including cystic fibrosis and Huntington’s.

The new scheme will allow parents to test the DNA of their newborns at birth for free to identify the risk of any inherited illnesses. The results of the DNA test will be pinned in the child’s medical records. This will allow the doctors to give necessary guidelines to the parents and reduce the risk of several chronic diseases, like heart problems and cancer.

The results will also allow the doctors to immediately identify children with rare genetic diseases, such as sickle cell disease. It can even help the children get lifetime advice about drugs and the treatments they may need to go through in the future.

The NHS will be launching its pilot project next year in association with a Government-owned genetics service called Genomics England. Nearly 20,000 parents are expected to be a part of the pilot project.

“The benefits of this test can play out over the course of someone’s life. Someone may have had their genome sequenced as a newborn and 25 years later they develop another health problem,” The Sun quoted Chris Wigley, Chief Executive, Genomics England.

Wigley further said the DNA test results can be assessed in the future for generic insights on different types of drugs and treatments.

“We can use the same genomic data to assess, ‘Are they likely to have an adverse effect to this drug versus that drug?’ With Alzheimer’s disease, for example, we can generate insights for how someone is likely to respond to different treatments that they may encounter when they are 75, from the moment they are born,” he added.

Nearly 3,000 babies in Wales and England are born every year with serious illnesses that are treatable before their fifth birthday. The new health scheme can play a vital role in identifying and treating such babies as quickly as possible.

If the pilot project becomes successful, NHS is planning to introduce it nationwide within three years of the initial launch. Health Secretary Matt Hancock said they are aiming to offer this test to every child in the country.

“My ambition is that eventually every child will be able to receive whole genome sequencing along with the heel prick test. We will give every child the best possible start in life by ensuring they get the best possible medical care as soon as they enter the world,” Daily Mail quoted him.

“Predictive, preventative, personalized healthcare – that is the future of the NHS – and whole genome sequencing and genomics is going to play a huge part in that,” he added.

A DNA testing kit; part of the research was compiled by volunteers who had signed up through commercial DNA testing company 23andMe
A DNA testing kit; part of the research was compiled by volunteers who had signed up through commercial DNA testing company 23andMe AFP / Eric BARADAT