Introducing FirstScreen: The revolutionary newborn screening test 

By Next Biosciences

01 December 2016

Next Biosciences offers FirstScreen – a newborn screening test done in collaboration with the School of Biochemistry at North-West University’s Potchefstroom Campus. The School of Biochemistry’s scientists is well known for their expertise and many years of experience in the field of inborn errors of metabolism (IEM). 

They have been involved in the IEM research field since the early 1970s. The School of Biochemistry also has a formal relationship with the University of Amsterdam to assist in IEM diagnosis and research. 

Next Biosciences’ role in developing FirstScreen with North-West University is to establish a newborn screening programme that is widely accessible to South African doctors and patients. 

The intentions are to: 

Educate parents about newborn screening and its benefits. This is done through information leaflets, informative videos and presentations to prospective parents at antenatal classes. Next Biosciences is establishing a team of nurses across the country to counsel new mums in hospitals on the benefits of newborn screening; 

Educating obstetricians and paediatricians on the availability and relevance of newborn screening to their patients; 

Offering the paediatricians a supportive service in the results and follow-up of newborn screening with their patients. This is especially true in cases of false positives where repeat tests are required and patients must be counselled. 

Since the inception of FirstScreen in March 2016, the number of newborn screenings in South Africa has increased by 50%. 

As the test costs is approximately R1700 and is only partially covered by medical schemes, it is only available to a select population in the private sector. The cost of the test will decrease over time as the volume of tests performed at North-West University increases. 

At this time, there is no newborn screening being done in the government sector. 

Currently, there is no policy in South Africa and, subsequently, no clinical guidelines on how to treat a newborn with a positive screening result. North-West University, in conjunction with an advisory panel of paediatricians, is writing up guidelines on managing positive test results. 

This is a much-needed service in South Africa, and Next Biosciences is committed to developing a sustainable and beneficial newborn screening programme. 

Please see the link to our short video to educate parents on newborn screening.