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State To Begin Testing Newborns For Krabbe Disease

blood vials
flickr/CC Chapman

After reporting by the Chicago Tribune uncovered public health officials were failing to test babies for a devastating neurological disease, the Illinois Department of Public Health Department says the tests will begin Monday. 

Krabbe disease is an inherited disorder that causes neurological deterioration. Basically, bodies just shut down and children don’t typically live past 10 years of age if it’s not caught in time.

Dr. Doug Carlson, chief of pediatrics at SIU School of Medicine says there is effective screening and treatment, but it’s not always 100%. “There are some children that have been shown that if they had an early bone marrow transplant have had normal or near normal cognitive abilities, but most children even with the transplant still have significant issues, but they have less issues and survivability is much better.”

To have the chance at a more normal life, catching the disease early is vital. Dr. Carlson says, that's one of the major difficulties. “The test is good, but it’s not perfect, and to be effective, we have to do the bone marrow transplant very early within the first couple months of life if there’s going to be a salvaging of the neurological system.”

The state approved a law requiring newborns be tested for this disease among dozens of others a decade ago.  The state’s Public Health agency did not respond for comment when asked why it took so long.

Jaclyn has an MA in Journalism from DePaul University and a BS in History form Monmouth College. Prior to reporting, Jaclyn was a social science teacher and department chair at Greenfield High School. Previously, Jaclyn reported for WICS Newschannel 20 where she covered a variety of assignments including courts, politics, and breaking news. She also reported at Siouxland News in Sioux City Iowa, the shared CBS/Fox television newsroom. Her internships included WGN and Comcast SportsNet in Chicago.