Babies born in Minnesota to now be screened for Krabbe disease, Department of Health says

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) announced that the state’s Newborn Screening Program expanded to detect Krabbe disease.

Krabbe disease is a rare, genetic condition that prevents a newborn from being able to fully break down certain fats. This causes the fats to build up in the body, which can lead to nerve damage that affects a person’s ability to eat, walk and speak. In the most severe form, infantile Krabbs disease can lead to death within the first two years of life.

Although there is no cure for Krabbe disease, treatment can help manage symptoms and improve quality of life. Currently, the only treatment available is stem cell transplant, which MDH says is best performed before a baby is 30 days old.

Minnesota Commissioner of Health Dr. Brooke Cunningham released the following statement:

Minnesota has a one of the most comprehensive newborn screening programs in the country. Adding Krabbe disease to the long list of conditions the lab already screens for will help identify more children earlier, slow the progression of their symptoms and even increase their lifespan.

Dr. Brooke Cunningham

A news release from MDH said Commissioner Cunningham approved the Newborn Screening Advisory Committee’s recommendation to add Krabbe disease to the list of conditions Minnesota newborns are routinely screened for. This comes as technology and treatments have improved in recent decades.

When a newborn is identified as being at risk for infantile Krabbe disease, the family is referred by their doctor to metabolic specialists at M Health Fairview, which is currently the only center in the region equipped to perform stem cell transplants in newborns.

This methodology began in 1964 when Minnesota began screening for PKU (phenylketonuria), and blood samples from across the state were sent to the MDH public health lab unless the parents opt out. The lab now screens for more than 60 different conditions.

CLICK HERE for more information on the state’s Newborn Screening Program.