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University of Iowa News Release


June 1, 2007

Photo: April Oxendale, a newborn screening analyst at the University Hygienic Laboratory, prepares an infant's blood sample to test for congenital disorders. South Dakota selected UHL to provide support for its newborn screening program beginning June 1. UHL also tests blood samples of children born in Iowa, North Dakota and Louisiana.

South Dakota Picks UI Hygienic Lab To Support Newborn Screening Program

The state of South Dakota has selected the University Hygienic Laboratory (UHL) to provide laboratory support for its newborn screening program beginning today, Friday, June 1.

From its facility in Ankeny, UHL will screen the estimated 11,000 babies born each year in South Dakota for the presence of potentially life-threatening conditions such as PKU (phenylketonuria). UHL also performs newborn screening for infants born in Iowa, North Dakota and Louisiana.

"South Dakota, North Dakota and Iowa are all part of the Heartland Region of newborn screening laboratories," explained UHL Interim Director Chris Atchison. "Laboratories in this region regularly collaborate on ways to advance testing methods that detect congenital conditions from the earliest moments of life. The support UHL will provide to the South Dakota newborn screening program and the regional sharing of this highly specialized screening expertise benefits the children and their families in all three states."

UHL, as Iowa's environmental and public health laboratory, is designated by the Iowa Department of Public Health as the central laboratory for the Iowa Metabolic Newborn Screening Program and provides screening for some 40,000 infants born in Iowa each year. In 1992, UHL began providing the newborn screening for about 10,000 babies born annually in North Dakota.

UHL has aided the Louisiana Office of Public Health since September 2005 by providing the laboratory testing for that state's newborn screening program after the Louisiana public health laboratory in New Orleans was destroyed in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

"Newborn screening is not just a test; it is the whole process," said Stanton Berberich, Ph.D., UHL program manager for newborn screening. "You need to collect the specimen, obtain a valid test result and, if there is an abnormal screen result, you need to very quickly follow up to confirm if the child has the disorder. If so, the child must quickly receive appropriate interventions or treatment to prevent severe problems.

"One of the things that historically has been a real challenge is the borders where babies live in one state and they are born in another," Berberich added. "It can be very difficult to ensure that every baby is tested and followed appropriately to make sure that any abnormal test is resolved. Being part of a regional program allows us to address these issues most directly to ensure the best outcomes for the babies and their families."

Newborn screening is performed with a tiny sample of blood that is collected shortly after birth using a heel-prick test. From a few drops of blood, UHL is able to test for up 40 disorders. This includes the 28 core tests recommended by the American College of Medical Genetics and an additional 20 disorders. Left undetected and untreated, these disorders can cause severe developmental delays, coma or death.

A national leader in newborn screening, Iowa is the only state in the nation that provides around-the-clock testing for congenital and inherited diseases in newborns.

The UHL is the state of Iowa's environmental and public health laboratory, with facilities located on the UI's Oakdale Campus in Iowa City and at the Iowa Lab Facilities in Ankeny, a Des Moines suburb. Among its many services, the laboratory functions as a consultative and analytical support facility for state agencies, health professionals, and citizens. UHL is part of the University of Iowa and has developed and maintained effective and productive collaborations with the Iowa Department of Public Health, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Geological Survey, and local public health agencies.

UHL performs analyses on samples from virtually all matrices, including human clinical specimens, air, drinking water, wastewater, soil, sediment, industrial effluents, oil and fish. In addition to performing analyses by specified methods, the UHL provides methods development and procedure verification for nonroutine analyses. Additional information about UHL, its programs and services is available online at

STORY SOURCE: University Hygienic Laboratory, 102 Oakdale Campus, H101 OH, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-5002

MEDIA CONTACT: Pat Blake, 319-335-4177,