Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison reported that newborn screening for cystic fibrosis is associated with improved pubertal development, leading to taller adult height when compared to cystic fibrosis children identified later through symptoms.
The study, “Pubertal Height Growth and Adult Height in Cystic Fibrosis After Newborn Screening,” was published in the journal Pediatrics.
The research team investigated the long-term growth benefit in performing newborn screening for cystic fibrosis when compared to patients who had been diagnosed solely when displaying symptoms for the disease. The team measured the pubertal and adult heights of 107 children born between 1985 and 1994, following them until 2012. Researchers measured adolescent peak height velocity and adult height in the newborns screened and in the control group (who were not screened as newborns).
Researchers observed that 25 patients with meconium ileus (a bowel obstruction occurring mostly as a consequence of cystic fibrosis), exhibited worse pubertal growth and adult height. But children with pancreatic sufficiency, detected in 18 patients, achieved normal values for both adolescent peak height velocity and adult height.
The most likely group to benefit from newborn screening are those children with pancreatic insufficiency without meconium ileus. In fact, this subgroup showed similar peak height velocity but improved adult height when compared to controls.
Specifically, boys in this group showed higher peak height velocity relative to controls. Girls who received newborn screening were older and exhibited lower peak height velocity compared to the control group, a condition coinciding with later menarche.
In conclusion, the authors said the results suggest that newborn screening for cystic fibrosis is associated with an improved pubertal growth resulting in higher adult height.
“The Wisconsin Randomized Clinical Trial project demonstrated that early diagnosis of cystic fibrosis within weeks of birth provides great opportunity to prevent detrimental nutrition and growth faltering in early infancy; in conjunction with appropriate nutritional therapy, such early growth benefits of newborn screening sustain long-term through puberty and lead to better adult height,” said Zhumin Zhang, Ph.D., from the department of nutritional sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and colleagues, according to a press release.