News August 19th 2016

South Africa Needs a National Newborn Screening Program

A video created in South Africa with the support of the Newborn Screening Laboratory at North-West University and the Technology Innovation Agency addresses the lack of neonatal screening in South Africa. Through the stories of three South African families whose babies could have been saved permanent disability and even untimely death, the video urges all mothers to make sure their babies are screened.

All of the families interviewed have been affected by isovaleric acidemia (IVA), a metabolic disorder involving an inability to break down proteins due to a lack of necessary enzymes. IVA is one of the many genetic conditions targeted by newborn screening. Without screening, it can go undetected until it is too late for treatment. In the meantime, a baby’s health can deteriorate rapidly.

“He was struggling to feed and just didn’t want to drink at all,” describes Willlemien Olivier, the mother of a baby who had to be hospitalised within a week after birth.

Thanks to timely intervention, the other parents interviewed were each able have a normal child. They now know that neonatal screening is an essential preventive healthcare practice.

“If I could only stress how important it is and how simple it is to have a test done with a newborn baby!” exclaims Mandie Rautenbach, a mother of two who nearly lost both of her sons due to isovaleric academia (IVA)

“Peace of mind with just a prick on the heel, and the comfort to know that might there be a problem, it could be solved!” she reflects.