updated 10/28/2004 12:48:36 PM ET 2004-10-28T16:48:36

Babies born in New York will be tested for 44 genetic diseases — more than any other state — under an expansion of the state’s newborn screening program announced Wednesday.

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Infants are currently screened for 11 inherited and sometimes life-threatening disorders including cystic fibrosis, sickle cell anemia and phenylketonuria.

Under the expanded program, the number of diseases tested in newborns would quadruple by 2005. Twenty diseases will be added by the end of this year and another 13 in 2005.

Early diagnosis and prompt treatment after birth can prevent mental retardation and other complications later on.

Iowa, Mississippi, North Dakota test between 38 to 43 inherited diseases in newborns, according to the National Newborn Screening and Genetics Resource Center.

New York is among several states that use new technology called tandem mass spectrometry, which takes a single drop of blood to screen for at least 20 diseases.

Mandatory testing for genetic diseases in newborns varies greatly by state. Last month, a government advisory committee recommended that states test newborns for 30 rare, inherited diseases.

Several states in recent months have moved to increase the number of newborn screenings. In August, Ohio mandated that babies be tested for 30 genetic disorders, up from 13.

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