ViaCord Launches Newborn Digestive Health Screen
This month, ViaCord announces a new offering that gives parents additional insight into their family’s future health through their newborn’s cord blood. The Newborn Digestive Health screen tests for genetic markers of Celiac disease and primary lactose intolerance. This screen can be performed with a tiny amount of the already collected cord blood. The results will inform both families and physicians if the baby is predisposed to disorders that can be managed through dietary and lifestyle modifications.
Digestive disorders are among the most common challenges faced by parents of infants and toddlers. Almost every baby has episodes of fussy digestion, and it is estimated that about one quarter of babies go through a phase of colic1. Oftentimes parents experiment with one diet after another in hopes of improving their child’s digestion and reducing discomfort. Any parent who has walked the floor for hours trying to console an irritable baby cannot help wondering if their baby’s crying is a symptom of a deeper problem, and are they missing a medical diagnosis? Having access to an accurate screen for the most common digestive disorders can provide families with the answers they need.
The Newborn Digestive Health screen covers two conditions: Celiac disease and primary lactose intolerance.
Celiac disease is a hereditary auto-immune disorder where the ingestion of gluten (found in many grains) leads to damage of the small intestine. About 1% of people carry the risk gene for Celiac disease, but 97% of them are not aware that they have it2,3. Carrying the Celiac risk gene does not guarantee that a person will develop Celiac disease, but awareness of this risk can aide early recognition of symptoms and lead to early diagnosis. The symptoms of Celiac disease may not start until later in life, after ongoing exposure to foods containing gluten. It is important to diagnose Celiac disease early in its course, because over time the intestinal damage causes insufficient absorption of nutrients and that leads to a variety of medical complications4. Moreover, the probability of developing additional auto-immune disorders rises dramatically with age at the time of Celiac diagnosis4.
Lactose intolerance is the inability to digest the carbohydrate that is found in the milk of humans and other mammals, such as cows. About 70% of people around the world become lactose intolerant as they grow older, with the prevalence varying by race and ethnic group5,6. Lactose intolerance is called “primary” when it is the result of a genetic predisposition, and “secondary” when it is triggered by another intestinal problem, such as Celiac disease5. Lactose intolerance is not life threatening, but when it occurs in young children it requires significant changes from the dairy-rich diet that young children eat in some cultures.
Ironically, Celiac disease and primary lactose intolerance have overlapping symptoms, including abdominal pain, excess gas, and diarrhea. However, the underlying cause is different for each condition and the foods to be avoided are different. Only with an accurate diagnosis will parents know how to manage their child’s digestive problems.
Viacord’s Newborn Digestive Health screen relies on genomic array testing at ViaCord’s CLIA-certified laboratory. For Celiac disease, the test looks for the presence or absence of the genetic markers HLA-DQ2 and HLA-DQ8. In the case of lactose intolerance, the test looks for variations (polymorphisms) in the tested region of the lactase (LCT) gene. The results of these tests can determine the baby’s predisposition to both digestive disorders, including a scale of whether that predisposition is very low or very high. The test results are provided along with the newborn’s cord blood banking report.
The Newborn Digestive Health screen from ViaCord can help parents and their pediatricians determine if lifestyle changes are necessary to help their child digest food effectively and avoid future medical problems. To learn more about the Newborn Digestive Health screen, visit the ViaCord website.
- Miller KE. Colic: Prevalence, Risk Factors, and Potential Sequelae. American Family Physician. 2003; 67(9):2005-2006.
- Children’s National. Pediatric Celiac Disease. Accessed 2021-07-01
- MassGeneral for Children. Genetic Testing for Celiac Disease. Published 2021-03-29
- Celiac Disease Foundation. What Is Celiac Disease? Accessed 2021-07-01
- Healthline. Lactose Intolerance 101 — Causes, Symptoms and Treatment. Published 2017-06-24
- Heine RG, AlRefaee F, Bachina P, et al. Lactose intolerance and gastrointestinal cow’s milk allergy in infants and children – common misconceptions revisited. World Allergy Organ J. 2017; 10(1):41.