New DNA Test Helps Identify Newborns at Risk of Hearing Loss from Antibiotic Use

NHS hospitals in the UK are set to introduce a rapid test that can aid in preserving the hearing ability of newborns. Certain infants can experience harmful effects from common antibiotics, resulting in permanent hearing loss due to damage to the ear’s sensory cells. However, the DNA test for newborns can detect those who are susceptible in a timely manner.

Gentamicin, a preferred antibiotic for severe bacterial infections in newborns, is both life-saving and safe for the majority of individuals. However, it has an uncommon side effect that can lead to toxicity in the hair cells of the ear due to a minor genetic mutation found in around 1,250 newborns in England and Wales.

The new Genedrive kit analyzes a sample collected from inside the infant’s cheek, and can identify babies at risk of hearing loss in just 26 minutes, according to tests carried out at two neonatal intensive care units in Manchester and Liverpool. The test does not cause a delay in treatment. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), which determines the medications and technologies employed by the NHS, has given provisional approval to the test.

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