South Dakota is considering whether newborns should be screened for spinal muscular atrophy

Capitol News Bureau
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PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — The South Dakota Department of Health doesn’t require screening of newborns for spinal muscular atrophy, despite the federal government’s recommendation that it be done.

The state department lists SMA as one of nine disorders that are recommended for screening but currently aren’t. South Dakota uses the State Hygienic Laboratory at the University of Iowa to screen for 49 other disorders from dried blood-spot specimen of newborns.

Spokesman Derrick Haskins said the state department is considering whether to require SMA screening.

“At this time, we are awaiting results from a study being conducted in Iowa and will reevaluate whether to add SMA to the South Dakota newborn screening panel when that is complete,” Haskins said. 

He said 99.4% of babies born in the state of South Dakota in the last year received the newborn blood-spot screening, which identifies newborns at risk for life-threatening and debilitating conditions that would otherwise not be detected until damage has occurred.

The department’s Office of Child and Family Services “is frequently in contact with medical providers and health systems across the state to discuss and evaluate our panel,” according to Haskins.

No state lawmaker in South Dakota since at least 2013 has proposed legislation to require SMA screening, according to a KELOLAND News search of legislative records.

South Dakota is one of 17 states that don’t require SMA screening, according to a new report from the CureSMA advocacy group.

Among neighboring states, Nebraska and Montana also don’t do SMA screening, according to Cure SMA, while Iowa and North Dakota are in the pilot stage. Minnesota and Wyoming require SMA screening.

“Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is the leading genetic cause of infant mortality, affecting one in every 11,000 live births in the U.S. It is a serious, life-threatening, neuromuscular disease affecting a person’s ability to walk, swallow, and breath,” the CureSMA report states.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services added SMA to the federal Recommended Uniform Screening Panel in 2018 and encouraged states to screen every newborn for it.

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