It is always important that the blood sample collection in newborns needs to be non-invasive and less painful. Further, the amount of samples collected from newborns is also a significant factor as every newborn possesses a different health condition. In these scenarios, collecting blood from the baby’s heel is considered to be safe. Such collected samples need to be stored efficiently. For this, the heel-pricked blood samples are directly spotted on the specialized filter papers called as Dried blood spots, often abbreviated as DBS. This innovative method has revolutionized the way healthcare professionals identify and manage various congenital and metabolic disorders in infants. The main aim of this article is to provide a comprehensive understanding of DBS in newborn screening (NBS), exploring their significance, the screening process, and their impact on early disorder detection.
Steps involved in the preparation of DBS
The preparation of DBS involves pricking the baby's heel and allowing a few drops of blood to evenly distribute on the filter paper. Once dried, these DBS are stored in a cool place without moisture and can be used for various tests over an extended period. The sample collection device (filter paper) should be of good quality or according to the regulations provided by the competent authorities. Healthcare professionals should be aware that any compromise in the filter paper quality directly affects the newborn screening results. Apart from the filter paper quality, blood hematocrit values also have a significant impact on the DBS quality. Blood with normal hematocrit values results in a uniform distribution of samples on the filter paper.
Significance of Dried Blood Spots
DBS plays a pivotal role in the early detection of inherited disorders in newborns. NBS programs use these samples to identify a range of congenital disorders, including metabolic, genetic, and endocrine conditions. By analyzing the blood spots, healthcare providers can diagnose these conditions in their infancy, enabling timely intervention and treatment that can give the baby a normal/healthy life.
Easy Collection and Transportation
The preparation of DBS is a relatively non-invasive procedure. It requires a simple heel prick, which is minimally painful for the newborn. This ease of collection makes it a practical choice for NBS, as it minimizes discomfort and stress for both the infant and their parents. Also, DBS can be easily transported at ambient temperature and most of the marker analytes are stable in the filter paper during transit.
One of the remarkable advantages of DBS is its long-term storage capabilities. These samples can be preserved for years, allowing for retrospective testing if needed. This is especially valuable for tracking the progression of certain diseases or conducting research.
The Newborn Screening Process
Other Applications of Dried Blood Spots
Dried blood spots are not limited to NBS alone. It has applications in a wide range of medical tests, including the monitoring of blood glucose levels, HIV testing, and the detection of hepatitis B and C. Their versatility makes them a valuable resource in healthcare.
Research and Epidemiology
DBS are also instrumental in epidemiological studies and research. They provide a convenient means of collecting and storing blood samples from large populations, aiding in the study of disease prevalence, genetic variations, and public health trends. It acts as an invaluable tool in NBS programs worldwide due to its non-invasive collection procedure, easy specimen handling, and long-term storage capabilities.