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The tandem mass spectrometry newborn screening experience in North Carolina: 1997–2005


North Carolina (NC) was the first US state to initiate universal tandem mass spectrometry (MS/MS) newborn screening. This began as a statewide pilot project in 1997 to determine the incidence and feasibility of screening for fatty acid oxidation, organic acid and selected amino acid disorders. The MS/MS analyses were done by a commercial laboratory and all follow-up and confirmatory testing was performed through the NC Newborn Screening (NBS) Program. In April 1999, the NC NBS Laboratory began the MS/MS analyses in-house. Between 28 July 1997 and 28 July 2005, 944 078 infants were screened and 219 diagnoses were confirmed on newborns with elevated screening results, for an overall incidence of 1:4300. Ninety-nine infants were identified with fatty acid oxidation disorders, 58 with organic acidaemias and 62 with aminoacidopathies. Medium-chain acyl-CoA dehydrogenase deficiency, 3-methylcrotonyl-CoA carboxylase deficiency and disorders of phenylalanine metabolism were the most common disorders detected. Identification of affected infants has allowed retrospective testing of other family members, resulting in an additional 16 diagnoses. Seven neonates died from complications of their metabolic disorders/prematurity despite timely MS/MS screening. In addition, there were six infants who were not identified by elevated NBS results but who presented with symptoms later in infancy. The NC MS/MS NBS Program uses a two-tier system, categorizing results as either ‘borderline’ or ‘diagnostic’ elevated, for both the cutoffs and follow-up protocol. Infants with an initial borderline result had only a repeat screen. Infants with a diagnostic or two borderline results were referred for confirmatory testing. The positive predictive value of the NC MS/MS NBS for those infants requiring confirmatory testing was 53% for 2003 and 2004. The success of the NC MS/MS NBS Program in identifying infants with metabolic disorders was dependent on a comprehensive follow-up protocol integrating the public health laboratory and the academic metabolic centres.

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Correspondence to D. M. Frazier.

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Communicating editor: Rodney Pollitt

Competing interests: None declared

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Frazier, D.M., Millington, D.S., McCandless, S.E. et al. The tandem mass spectrometry newborn screening experience in North Carolina: 1997–2005. J Inherit Metab Dis 29, 76–85 (2006).

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  • Fatty Acid Oxidation
  • Newborn Screening
  • Confirmatory Testing
  • North Carolina
  • Public Health Laboratory