Brighton: Genetic test for babies to prevent hearing loss

The test, which involves taking a gentle cheek swab, can determine whether a critically ill baby has a single gene change that could cause permanent hearing loss if they are treated with gentamicin.

Neonatal registrar Dr Jodie Nguyen said the hospital admits around 450 new-born babies each year.

“Many will be unwell and require antibiotics. For those carrying this genetic variation, even a single dose of gentamicin can sometimes cause severe irreversible hearing loss,” she said.

“Until now, we have not been able to test for this gene prior to administering antibiotics because genetic testing takes at least a few days, and we must give antibiotics quickly – within one hour – in order for them to be the most effective against infection.”

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