Improving test properties for neonatal cystic fibrosis screening in the Netherlands before the nationwide start by May 1st 2011

J Inherit Metab Dis. 2012 Jul;35(4):635-40. doi: 10.1007/s10545-012-9452-7.


When new technical possibilities arise in health care, often attunement is needed between different actors from the perspectives of research, health care providers, patients, ethics and policy. For cystic fibrosis (CF) such a process of attunement in the Netherlands started in a committee of the Health Council on neonatal screening in 2005. In the balancing of pros and cons according to Wilson and Jungner criteria, the advantages for the CF patient were considered clear, even though CF remains a severe health problem with treatment. Nevertheless, screening was not started then, mainly since the specificity of the tests available at that time was considered too low. Many healthy infants would have been referred for sweat testing and much uncertainty would arise in their parents. Also the limited sensitivity for immigrants and the detection of less severe phenotypes and carriers were considered problematic. The Health Council recommended a pilot screening project which was subsequently performed in some provinces, leading to a 4-step protocol: IRT, PAP, screening for a CFTR mutation panel, and sequencing of the CFTR gene. This would lead to the identification of 23 cases of classical CF, two infants with less severe forms and 12 carriers per year in the Netherlands. Thus many CF patients can be diagnosed early, while limiting the number of referrals, the number of infants with less severe forms diagnosed and the number of carriers identified. Technical solutions were found to limit the ethical problems. A nationwide program using this four step protocol started by 1 May 2011.

MeSH terms

  • Cystic Fibrosis / diagnosis*
  • Cystic Fibrosis / genetics*
  • Cystic Fibrosis / prevention & control
  • Cystic Fibrosis Transmembrane Conductance Regulator / genetics
  • Genetic Testing / methods
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Mass Screening / methods
  • Mutation
  • Neonatal Screening / methods*
  • Netherlands
  • Parents
  • Pilot Projects
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Sweat / chemistry


  • CFTR protein, human
  • Cystic Fibrosis Transmembrane Conductance Regulator