Genedrive develops a new genetic test to prevent deafness in babies





A start-up based at the University of Manchester in the UK, Genedrive, has developed a new genetic test, the Genedrive system, to prevent babies from going deaf.

The bedside machine takes 25 minutes and helps determine if a baby admitted to intensive care with a serious illness has a gene that can lead to permanent hearing loss if the common emergency antibiotic known as gentamicin is used for the processing.

Gentamicin is an antibiotic that is given within 60 minutes to patients admitted to intensive care. It is used for the treatment of approximately 100,000 babies each year.

The world’s first swab genetic testing technique is set to replace a test that takes days and could prevent nearly 180 babies from going deaf in England alone each year.

It helps find babies with the genetic variant and allows another antibiotic to be given within 60 minutes.

The NHS and NHS Genomic Medicine Service Alliance will now explore ways to launch the technology into a clinical service through the NHS Genomic Medicine Service, following completion of the Pharmacogenetic study to avoid loss of hearing (PALoH).

Bill Newman, Professor of Translational Genomic Medicine at the University of Manchester, said: “I am absolutely delighted with the success of the study and the fact that this test will now be used in three of our Trust’s neonatal intensive care units. – it will actually make a real difference so babies don’t lose their hearing for some preventable reason.

“The trial demonstrated that you can deploy rapid genetic testing in a clinical setting and that testing can be done during the ‘golden hour’ when critically ill babies need to be treated with antibiotics.”

Neonatal units at Manchester University’s NHS Foundation Trust (MFT) hospitals will start using the new test regularly within weeks.

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