Missouri's newborn screening program, which turned 50 earlier this month, is expanding its reach to get blood samples to testing facilities faster.
The program added eight new hospitals as collection sites for testing for a total of 54 around the state. It also added Sunday pickup service to all sites, in addition to the regular daily weekday pickup.
Ryan Hobart is the spokesperson for the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. He says the expansion will help expedite the testing process, which is important in catching and treating serious and life-threatening issues, such as cystic fibrosis, sickle cell, and maple syrup urine disease.
"Any illnesses or disorders that are found can be reported to the doctors immediately and they can start to work with the families and their children to try and treat whatever is going on with them," Hobart said.
After birth, doctors use a heel prick to take a blood sample from the newborn, which is then either picked up from the hospital or taken to another collection location and then to the lab. Hobart says the state lab is able to test a sample that comes in within one day.
The key is getting the samples to the lab faster, especially samples collected from rural hospitals, like many of the ones added in the expansion. Those hospitals are in Bolivar, Clinton, St. Charles, Sikeston, Nevada, Washington, Houston and Kennett, Missouri.
"They're smaller community hospitals that may not have been on the route initially but have been added to make sure they can get their samples here in a timely manner," Hobart said.
Newborn screening in Missouri tests for more than 65 diseases and disorders, one of the highest in the nation. Federal law only requires 21 of those. Hobart said many of the extra tests are low cost but make a big impact on addressing those problems earlier if they appear.
"It's not a huge cost and once it's done, they can find disorders that is they catch them soon enough they can treat and hopefully have this child's treatment go as well as it can," Hobart said.