Actionability of unanticipated monogenic disease risks in newborn genomic screening: Findings from the BabySeq Project

Am J Hum Genet. 2023 Jul 6;110(7):1034-1045. doi: 10.1016/j.ajhg.2023.05.007. Epub 2023 Jun 5.


Newborn genomic sequencing (NBSeq) to screen for medically important genetic information is of considerable interest but data characterizing the actionability of such findings, and the downstream medical efforts in response to discovery of unanticipated genetic risk variants, are lacking. From a clinical trial of comprehensive exome sequencing in 127 apparently healthy infants and 32 infants in intensive care, we previously identified 17 infants (10.7%) with unanticipated monogenic disease risks (uMDRs). In this analysis, we assessed actionability for each of these uMDRs with a modified ClinGen actionability semiquantitative metric (CASQM) and created radar plots representing degrees of penetrance of the condition, severity of the condition, effectiveness of intervention, and tolerability of intervention. In addition, we followed each of these infants for 3-5 years after disclosure and tracked the medical actions prompted by these findings. All 17 uMDR findings were scored as moderately or highly actionable on the CASQM (mean 9, range: 7-11 on a 0-12 scale) and several distinctive visual patterns emerged on the radar plots. In three infants, uMDRs revealed unsuspected genetic etiologies for existing phenotypes, and in the remaining 14 infants, uMDRs provided risk stratification for future medical surveillance. In 13 infants, uMDRs prompted screening for at-risk family members, three of whom underwent cancer-risk-reducing surgeries. Although assessments of clinical utility and cost-effectiveness will require larger datasets, these findings suggest that large-scale comprehensive sequencing of newborns will reveal numerous actionable uMDRs and precipitate substantial, and in some cases lifesaving, downstream medical care in newborns and their family members.

Keywords: genomic screening; newborn screening; newborn sequencing; population health; precision medicine.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Exome Sequencing
  • Genetic Testing*
  • Genome, Human*
  • Genomics
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Neonatal Screening