A revolutionary genetic test has been introduced at the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton, aimed at preventing hearing loss in newborns at risk when treated with the antibiotic gentamicin. This antibiotic, recommended as the first-line of treatment for neonatal infections by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), can, however, cause severe and irreversible hearing loss in some babies due to a single genetic variation.
Non-Invasive Test for Safer Antibiotic Administration
The new, non-invasive test utilizes a gentle cheek swab to swiftly identify this genetic variation. This prompt identification enables safer administration of antibiotics, ensuring the wellbeing of the vulnerable newborns. As per neonatal registrar Dr. Jodie Nguyen, approximately 450 newborns admitted to the hospital each year may require antibiotics, thereby highlighting the critical need for such rapid testing.
Implications for the Family
Beyond the immediate implications for the newborn, the results of the test hold significance for the family of the infant. The gene causing this susceptibility to hearing loss is maternally inherited, thereby informing future medical decisions for the mother and maternal siblings. As Dr. Cassie Lawn, consultant neonatologist and clinical lead at the trust, elucidates, if the gene is detected in the baby, the mother and any siblings on the maternal side are likely to carry the gene change and should avoid gentamicin.
Early Identification Crucial
Early identification of hearing loss is vital to minimize its negative effects on a child’s language, communication, and social skill development. This innovative genetic testing service, with its quick turnaround time, is a monumental step towards systematic, cost-effective, and timely identification and addressal of hearing loss, ultimately reducing the potential negative impact on a child’s development and education.