Background: Cystic fibrosis (CF) is a recessively inherited condition caused by mutation of the CFTR gene. Newborn infants with CF have raised levels of immuno-reactive trypsinogen (IRT) in their serum. Measurement of IRT in the first week of life has enabled CF to be incorporated into existing newborn screening (NBS) blood spot protocols. However, IRT is not a specific test for CF and NBS therefore requires a further tier of tests to avoid unnecessary referral for diagnostic testing. Following identification of the CFTR gene, DNA analysis for common CF-associated mutations has been increasingly used as a second tier test. The aim of this study was to survey the current practice of CF NBS programmes in Europe.
Method: A questionnaire was sent to 26 regional and national CF NBS programmes in Europe.
Results: All programmes responded. The programmes varied in number of infants screened and in the protocols employed, ranging from sweat testing all infants with a raised first IRT to protocols with up to four tiers of testing. Three different assays for IRT were used; in the majority (24) this was a commercially available kit (Delfia). A number of programmes employed a second IRT measurement in the 4th week of life (as the IRT is more specific at this point). Nineteen programmes used DNA analysis for common CFTR mutations on samples with a raised first IRT. Three programmes used a second IRT measurement on infants with just one recognised mutation to reduce the number of infants referred for sweat testing. Referral to clinical services was prompt and diagnosis was confirmed by sweat testing, even in infants with two recognised mutations in most programmes. Subsequent clinical pathways were less uniform. Multivariate analysis demonstrated a relationship between the age of diagnosis and the timing of the first IRT. More sweat tests were undertaken if the first IRT was earlier and the diagnosis was later.
Conclusions: Annually these programmes screen approximately 1,600,000 newborns for CF and over 400 affected infants are recognised. The findings of this survey will guide the development of European evidence based guidelines and may help new regions or nations in the development and implementation of NBS for cystic fibrosis.