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Ontario has begun screening newborns for severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID), commonly known as bubble boy disease, which weakens newborns’ immune systems, rendering them unable to fight off even mild infections.

Until now, SCID testing has only been done on children with a family history of the genetic disorder, but as of Aug. 12, Ontario became the first province in Canada to begin screening all newborns for the rare deadly disorder.

Deb Matthews, Ontario Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, announced at CHEO on Aug. 20 that SCID would be the 29th disease or condition tested through the province’s newborn screening programs.

According to Matthews, if the newborn screening is done within the first seven days of life, the child can be cured of the disorder 95 per cent of the time.

Approximately 140,000 babies are born in Ontario each year.  In the last seven years, Newborn Screening Ontario (NSO) has increased the number of diseases or conditions that can be tested for from ages two to 29.

Since beginning the program, which is located within the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO), NSO’s director Dr. Pranesh Chakraborty said that more than 1,200 children have received early treatment for potentially life threatening illnesses.