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Screening Newborns for Cystic Fibrosis

Only five states  -- Colorado, Connecticut, Montana, Wisconsin, and Wyoming  -- automatically screen newborns for cystic fibrosis (CF). This incurable genetic disease causes the body to produce a thick mucus that interferes with proper digestion and causes chronic and sometimes fatal lung infections. Symptoms may not appear until later in childhood, but early detection can lead to more effective treatment, which may consist of medications and changes in diet. CF affects 1 in 3,300 Caucasians (the incidence is lower among other racial groups).

If your state doesn't require it, should you have your baby screened? Yes, if you have a family history of CF, or if your baby shows signs of the disease, such as poor weight gain or recurrent respiratory infections, by age 3, says Chris Cunniss, M.D., a pediatrician specializing in genetics at the University of Arizona College of Medicine, in Tucson. Discuss which testing method is most appropriate with your pediatrician. The most common is the sweat test, which checks for high levels of salt in sweat. It costs between $100 and $150, and is usually covered by insurance.