News Releases

News Release - Manitoba

June 8, 2022

PROVINCE ANNOUNCES EXPANSION OF NEWBORN SCREENING PROGRAM

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All Newborns to be Tested for Spinal Muscular Atrophy: Gordon

The newborn screening program at Cadham Provincial Laboratory is expanding to include spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) to support better outcomes for babies and families, Health Minister Audrey Gordon announced today.

“Early diagnosis is the key to improving outcomes for babies born with metabolic, endocrine or genetic disorders such as spinal muscular atrophy,” said Gordon. “Our government is proud to work with our partners across the health-care system to expand the newborn screening program to include testing for SMA, because we know it is the first step in accessing treatment and ensuring the best outcomes for families.”

Muscular Dystrophy Canada is providing $235,000 over two years to Cadham Provincial Laboratory to support a pilot program that will expand screening to include SMA.

“In a neuromuscular disorder like SMA, where time is of the essence, early diagnosis and prompt access to treatments are critical to achieving the best possible outcomes,” said Stacey Lintern, chief executive officer, Muscular Dystrophy Canada. “We commend the Province of Manitoba and Cadham Provincial Laboratory for changing the lives of families and babies who will be diagnosed through screening in the future.”

Cadham Provincial Laboratory supports public health and prevention programs through its laboratory services. Its newborn screening program was established in 1965 and is one of the most longstanding and successful programs of its kind in Canada, noted the minister. Most recently, it was expanded in 2020 to include severe combined immunodeficiency, which is fatal if not identified and treated early in infancy.

As a part of Budget 2022, the Manitoba government increased funding by an additional $4.2 million for Cadham Provincial Laboratory to support increased workload and supplies arising from volume increases.

“Being able to expand our newborn screening program means faster, more accurate information and better options for Manitoba families,” said Dr. Paul Van Caeseele, medical director of the Cadham Provincial Laboratory, Shared Health. “SMA screening will diagnose babies before irreversible disease occurs and connect them to early care that will give them much greater opportunity to live active, healthy lives.”

SMA occurs in approximately one in 18,000 babies and is the most common cause of fatal genetic disorders in children after cystic fibrosis, noted the minister. The disease causes muscle loss and weakening, with the most common type typically causing death within the first two years of life. Early diagnosis is key to improving health outcomes and quality of life.

“We are so happy and grateful that, going forward, no other family in Manitoba affected by SMA will have to experience the fear and pain of watching their child lose strength and abilities without knowing why, and the feeling of helplessness while searching for an answer,” said Maylia Bodman, mother to Braelynn. “While there wasn't treatment available when our daughter was diagnosed, we know that getting a diagnosis quickly also means timely access to treatment before symptoms start. This will both save lives and change lives. We sincerely thank everyone involved in this achievement for their effort and dedication in making this possible.”

The minister noted the province also recently added two new drugs for SMA to the provincial drug formulary for those who meet eligibility for treatment. Evrysdi (risdiplam), a disease modifying therapy given every day by mouth, and Zolgensma (onasemnogene abeparvovec), a gene replacement therapy given as a one-time intravenous infusion, help to slow the progression of the disease.

Manitoba’s newborn screening program screens for more than 45 disorders. Individually, these are rare, but 15 to 25 newborns in Manitoba are identified every year for early and critical specialist care.

For more information about SMA, visit https://muscle.ca/wecallitnmd/spinal-muscular-atrophy/.

More information about newborn screening in Manitoba is available at: https://sharedhealthmb.ca/services/diagnostic/newborn-screening/.


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