Imagine being the parent of a baby admitted to intensive care and needing antibiotics. You don’t question what antibiotics they are, or their long-term effects. However, one in 500 babies born in the UK possess a gene that can lead to permanent hearing loss if they’re given the common emergency antibiotic, Gentamicin.
The first hour of a baby’s treatment in an Emergency Department is key.
Up until now, any test to show a genetic vulnerability to Gentamicin took days for results to be known. By which time, antibiotics had been administered. But a new genetic test trialled by the NHS now takes less than half an hour to show if a newborn has the gene – well within the crucial first hour treatment window.
The new test may save the hearing of 180 babies in England alone each year and could save the NHS millions of pounds in subsequent hearing support.
It’s a significant development in a number of respects – for preventing deafness in newborns, and to show the possibilities of rapid genetic testing across the healthcare sector as a whole. Hundreds of nurses are being trained to use the new testing equipment at Saint Mary’s Hospital, Wythenshawe Hospital, and North Manchester General Hospital. We look forward to seeing the scope of this equipment being extended to other UK regions and CCGs.