Description of a pilot project of neonatal screening in Laos
Inborn errors of metabolism are a heterogenous group of diseases detectable within the first few days of life. Treatment options are variable, but in the majority of identifiable diseases early detection and treatment positively affects prognosis. For example, congenital hypothyroidism can be effectively treated (at low costs!) and with good outcome, when detected early.
Neonatal screening will be started in the Mother and Child Hospital, which is one of the large teaching hospitals in central Vientiane (capital of Laos). In this hospital approximately 3500 deliveries take place each year. In the beginning of the project the aim is to screen all infants born in the MCH, in a second stage of the project other hospitals within Vientiane and in Lunagprabang would be included in the screening program. Dried blood on neonatal screening cards would be collected by heel prick from every newborn infant on day three of life. Transport of the screening cards to the German screening laboratory would take place once weekly by scheduled flights from Vientiane via Bangkok to Hamburg. Screening for inborn errors of metabolism would be performed in the Hamburg screening laboratory according to European standards. Conspicuous results would be transferred to Vientiane by email in order to arrange a confirmation specimen or to begin treatment.
Neonatal screening is scheduled to start in early 2008. The initial duration with data acquisition and feasibility testing is planned for one year with the option of extension if successful.