Almost every new baby that’s born in Iowa in this new year will undergo health testing within 48 hours of when they come into the world. All the tests are now performed at a new state lab facility in Ankeny.
Marcia Valbracht oversees the lab which has been testing Iowa babies since 1983. Valbracht says the testing has changed quite dramatically in the last 25 years as they started testing for two or three different disorders, and they now test for 40 on each sample. There are actually two areas in the lab that each run different types of test.
Valbracht says the number of specimens each day varies from 150 to 300. There are around 40-thousand babies born each year in the state, and with re-tests, the lab analyzes some 60-thousand specimens each year. Valbracht says Iowa babies are pretty health when you look at the numbers. She says they may find 80 to 100 affected with the disorders they screen for out of the 40-thousand babies tested. Valbracht says they only test for genetic disorders for which there are known treatments or cures, and that allows them to diagnose problems early on. She says the testing goes unnoticed by the majority of new parents.
Valbracht says parents are given an educational pamphlet that explains the tests, but she says most parents don’t even realize the tests are being done. Valbracht says the parents who have disorders found and treated are very grateful. Iowa babies aren’t the only ones who benefit from the tests. Valbracht says they’ve been testing for North Dakota since 1992 and in June began testing for South Dakota too. They also do some testing for Middle Eastern countries. The lab also until just recently had been doing the tests for Louisiana in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.