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New genetic test for deafness launches in the UK

genetic test for deafness

Newborn babies in the UK will soon all be given a new genetic test for deafness. In the UK alone, this simple cheek swab genetic test for deafness could save around 180 babies per year from a future of profound deafness triggered by a popular antibiotic.

Genetic Test for Deafness

Genedrive’s genetic test for deafness is a simple cheek swab with results in about 25 minutes. It detects whether the baby has a genetic variant that will result in deafness if given the antibiotic gentamicin. This medication is typically given to newborns in intensive care within an hour of birth. According to inews.co.uk, around 90,000 babies in the UK are treated with it.

The simplicity of the test means it can be given with other screening procedures. It is more than 95 percent accurate, inews.co.uk reported. While this genetic variant was known to cause deafness, the test used to take days to produce results.

“(The test) is more than 95 percent accurate.” 

The Use of Gentamicin

Bill Newman, professor of Translational Genomic Medicine at the University of Manchester and consultant at Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust told HearingLikeMe.com in 2020 that gentamicin is cheap and effective against infections. It is given to over seven million babies worldwide every year.

“One in 500 babies will carry a genetic variant which will lead to profound irreversible hearing loss in babies given this medication, approximately 14,000 babies worldwide each year,” Newman said.

Read more: New test in UK to prevent gentamicin induced hearing loss

Clinical Trial That Led to the Test

In January 2020, this genetic test was used on 750 newborns at St Mary’s Hospital, Manchester. During the pandemic, most research was halted by the National Health Service (NHS). But this trial was allowed to continue. It will roll out to other Greater Manchester hospitals and eventually across NHS.

Author Details
Phonak hEARo, Phil is an actor, writer and journalist who writes in the deaf WellBeing and Lifestyle areas. He lives on the beautiful North Yorkshire coast with his wife Raine and their three children. Phil was diagnosed in 2016 and has moderate to severe Sensorineural hearing loss in both ears and constant tinnitus. He uses Phonak silver Nathos Auto M hearing aids. Member DANC (Disabled Artists Networking Community)