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Home > News > PTI

Project to detect mental disorder in babies

May 22, 2007 12:02 IST
Last Updated: May 22, 2007 12:03 IST

With mental retardation cases among children on the rise in India, the government will soon launch a pilot project to screen metabolic disorder in the newborns for early detection and prevention of the disorder.

The project, to be implemented under the aegis of the Indian Council for Medical Research, will screen one lakh newborns to detect the Inborn Errors of Metabolism, a group of rare but potentially lethal genetic mental disorders.

"From October 1, we will launch the pilot project in eight centres in the country. We want to later turn it into a national programme," Vasantha Muthuswamy, Senior Deputy Director General, ICMR, said.

She said that the council has started recruiting staff, installing equipment and training healthcare workers in these centres since March 29.

"It is a grave situation as we don't have the exact figure as to how many children are born with this problem. If these children are screened early, then they could be provided supplements to prevent the disorder from occurring," she said, adding that it will help the children to have a normal growth and life.

The project, costing over Rs 4 crore and likely to be completed over three years, will be conducted in select centres in New Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Kolkata and Chennai.

"The study is aimed at early detection and intervention of genetic disorders along with studying their prevalence in different parts of the country," Muthuswamy said.

In each centre, 20,000 new-borns will be screened. The first phase of the study will be on Congenital Hypothyroidism and Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia (leading to sexual ambiguity in the later stage), which are common and for which intervention and control is possible.

Of over thousand existing metabolic disorders, Muthuswamy said, they chose the two disorders which are the most common and can be easily prevented.

She said children suffering from these two metabolic disorders start showing symptoms when they grow up.

"Their milestones are delayed, or they are not bright as per their age. Their reactions are also delayed and irritable," she explained.

ICMR has been preparing for the project for the past five years. "We took time to launch the project, first with developing the protocol and then planning it. We will decide about making it a national programme after we come out with analysis," she said.

She said apart from the two problems, the focus will also be on high-risk babies who show other biochemical abnormalities.

"We will be picking 500 newborns and provide them with treatment. These children start showing mental problems from the age of six months," she said.

The screening would involve biochemical assays and not DNA-based analysis. For the test, a drop of blood from the heel of a newborn would be collected and allowed to dry on a filter paper before sending it for screening.

The test will be conducted after three days of the baby's birth, when its metabolic activity takes over body functions.

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