BACKGROUND Newborn screening (NBS) for hemoglobinopathies facilitates early identification of affected individuals to ensure the prompt institution of comprehensive medical care for affected newborns in California. When linked to extensive follow-up and education, NBS has been shown to significantly reduce mortality in children with sickle cell disease. Due to changing immigration patterns from Asia and Latin America, the State of California has witnessed an increased prevalence of clinically significant hemoglobin (Hb) disorders, including those resulting from novel genotypes. In 1999, newborn screening for Hb H disorders was incorporated in the statewide hemoglobinopathy screening program. PROCEDURE Primary screening for hemoglobin variants was performed using high performance liquid chromatography. Confirmatory testing on hemoglobinopathy mutations was performed by electropheresis techniques and genotyping methods. RESULTS Of 530,000 newborn samples screened annually in California, 2,118 samples were referred to the Hemoglobin Reference Laboratory (HRL) for confirmatory testing between January 1, 1998 and June 30, 2006 (0.05%). Sickle cell disease was most frequently observed (1 in 6,600 births) followed by alpha-thalassemia (1 in 9,000 births) and beta-thalassemia disease (1 in 55,000 births). The confirmatory analysis modified the initial screening in 5% of cases and revealed 25 rare or new genotypes. Diverse ethnicities were associated with hemoglobin mutations including Southeast Asian, Black, Indian/Asian, Middle Eastern, and Hispanic. CONCLUSIONS The California hemoglobinopathy screening program provides accurate diagnosis of hemoglobinopathies. Increasing incidence of diverse mutations require new strategies of laboratory screening, counseling, and patient management.
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