With 2.6 million births each year, an estimated 1,857 children are born in Egypt with congenital hypothyroidism. Thanks to a partnership with PerkinElmer, those children are being treated sooner to prevent the severe issues the condition can cause if left untreated.
Egypt has been especially proactive in screening newborns for congenital hypothyroidism, among other metabolic conditions, over the past decade. With the 2011 opening of the new Egyptian Newborn Screening Laboratory, that testing initiative has reached new heights in providing faster, more accurate results. The laboratory's added efficiencies have also replaced the need for 14 separate screening labs around the country, redirecting the funds used at those locations to be reinvested into the national screening program. Blood samples are now collected from newborns via heel-prick at more than 4,000 Primary Health Care facilities throughout Egypt, and those dried blood spot sample cards are being analyzed at the Cairo facility.
Congenital hypothyroidism, a condition caused by a thyroid hormone deficiency, affects an estimated one in every 1,400 babies in the Middle East. If left untreated within the first few months of life, it can lead to severe growth issues and mental development delays. Treatment for the disorder consists of oral thyroid medication, with the dose and hormone levels monitored and adjusted as a child grows.
"The significant upgrade of Egypt’s national screening system will provide critical early insights into the health of newborns with advanced testing and ultimately, opportunities for earlier intervention when necessary."
To meet the country's goal of providing free neonatal screening to all Egyptian newborns, the Egyptian Ministry of Health and Population (MHOP) worked with PerkinElmer to construct the Egyptian Newborn Screening Laboratory in Cairo. This state-of-the-art facility features PerkinElmer's Genetic Screening Processor® (GSP®) and Specimen Gate® Informatics. In combination with PerkinElmer's assistance in significantly upgrading the laboratory's technology systems, the Egyptian Newborn Screening Laboratory now stands as the world's largest neonatal screening facility, based on the number of heel-prick tests for congenital hypothyroidism that it conducts each year.
"The significant upgrade of Egypt's national screening system will provide critical early insights into the health of newborns with advanced testing and ultimately, opportunities for earlier intervention when necessary. Test results will also be stored in a central database, providing Egyptian healthcare professionals with timely information and improved population health insights," says Hanna Halme, vice president, Diagnostics, at PerkinElmer.
The Egyptian Newborn Screening Laboratory stands as a testament to Egypt's commitment to leveraging science to improve the health and safety of its people. In doing so, Egyptians have set the standard for how other countries around the world could manage newborn healthcare in the future.