Hon Amber-Jade Sanderson BA MLA

Hon Amber-Jade Sanderson BA MLA

Minister for Health; Mental Health

    WA babies to be screened for neuromuscular condition

    30/01/2023 7:00 AM
    • Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) added to newborn screening
    • From today, newborns screened for SMA as part of heel prick test
    • WA newborns are screened for around 25 serious disorders
    • Early detection can have huge impact on quality of life for affected children 

    From today, babies born in Western Australia will be screened for a further life-threatening condition as part of the newborn heel prick test.


    The State Government is expanding the Newborn Bloodspot Screening (NBS) Program to include spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), a genetic neuromuscular condition which can be life-threatening. 


    SMA is an inherited condition that affects nerves leading to the muscles - preventing the muscles receiving messages from the brain. Over time, the muscles become weaker and waste away.


    Initially, babies born with SMA appear perfectly normal, however, untreated babies don't often reach milestones like sitting or rolling in early infancy, are floppy and have progressive weakness and loss of motor function.


    While there is no known cure for SMA, recently approved therapies - if administered early - can provide dramatic improvements in the quality of life and lifespan of babies born with the condition.


    SMA occurs in one in 10,000 live births and being untreated is the number one genetic cause of death for children under the age of two.


    Babies born in WA are screened for around 25 serious disorders. Of those screened, around one in every 1,000 has a congenital condition that would otherwise have gone undetected.


    Screening is performed when a baby is 2-3 days old. A health professional pricks the baby's heel, collecting the blood on a special card which is dried and sent to a laboratory for analysis.


    WA Health's NBS program, overseen by PathWest laboratories, screens around 35,000 babies across the State every year.


    Comments attributed to Health Minister Amber-Jade Sanderson:


    "Screening programs like WA's Newborn Bloodspot Screening Program, are vital and offer babies with rare genetic conditions the chance to receive treatment earlier than they otherwise would.


    "We know early intervention leads to better health outcomes for newborns and their families, which is why the newborn heel prick test is so important.


    "Expanding the heel prick test to include SMA here in Western Australia will save lives and prevent long-term issues."


    Minister's office - 6552 5900