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Genetics Professionals’ Opinions of Whole-Genome Sequencing in the Newborn Period

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Journal of Genetic Counseling


Newborn screening (NBS) programs have been successful in identifying infants with rare, treatable, congenital conditions. While current programs rely largely on biochemical analysis, some predict that in the future, genome sequencing may be used as an adjunct. The purpose of this exploratory pilot study was to begin to characterize genetics professionals’ opinions of the use of whole-genome sequencing (WGS) in NBS. We surveyed members of the American College of Medical Genetics and Genomics (ACMG) via an electronic survey distributed through email. The survey included questions about results disclosure, the current NBS paradigm, and the current criteria for adding a condition to the screening panel. The response rate was 7.3 % (n = 113/1549). The majority of respondents (85 %, n = 96/113) felt that WGS should not be currently used in NBS, and that if it were used, it should not be mandatory (86.5 %, n = 96/111). However, 75.7 % (n = 84/111) foresee it as a future use of WGS. Respondents felt that accurate interpretation of results (86.5 %, n = 83/96), a more extensive consent process (72.6 %, n = 69/95), pre- (79.2 %, n = 76/96) and post-test (91.6 %, n = 87/95) counseling, and comparable costs (70.8 %, n = 68/96) and turn-around-times (64.6 %, n = 62/96) to current NBS would be important for using WGS in NBS. Participants were in favor of disclosing most types of results at some point in the lifetime. However, the majority (87.3 %, n = 96/110) also indicated that parents should be able to choose what results are disclosed. Overall, respondents foresee NBS as a future use of WGS, but indicated that WGS should not occur within the framework of traditional NBS. They agreed with the current criteria for including a condition on the recommended uniform screening panel (RUSP). Further discussion about these criteria is needed in order to better understand how they could be utilized if WGS is incorporated into NBS.

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This project was supported by a grant from the National Society of Genetic Counselors Public Health Special Interest Group.

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The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

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Correspondence to Elizabeth Ulm.

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Ulm, E., Feero, W.G., Dineen, R. et al. Genetics Professionals’ Opinions of Whole-Genome Sequencing in the Newborn Period. J Genet Counsel 24, 452–463 (2015).

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