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Faster DNA Tests Saving Lives Of The Sickest Victorian Kids

28 March 2018

Victoria’s sickest babies and children will get the tests and diagnosis they need up to 10 times faster thanks to an Australian first rapid DNA sequencing program funded by the Andrews Labor Government.

Premier Daniel Andrews and Minister for Health Jill Hennessy today met four-year-old Louis, who was one of 40 kids with a rare or undiagnosed condition that participated in a ground-breaking study into genomic sequencing.

Louis was initially diagnosed with a terminal condition at just five months old known as Leigh Disease, which results in a progressive decline in neurological functions. His parents were told he was unlikely to survive for more than a few years.

Thanks to genomic sequencing, doctors have found the gene responsible for his condition, and against the odds, were able to use this information to determine a targeted treatment. Louis is now responding to treatment and is no longer considered terminal.

These breakthroughs are possible thanks to the Labor Government’s $33.3 million investment in genomic sequencing. Victoria is the first Australian state to invest into genomic testing to give Victorians with rare genetic conditions the answers they need sooner – without the cost.

For babies and children in intensive care with rare and undiagnosed diseases, it can take months or years of expensive and complex tests to uncover rare genetic conditions - some may never find out the cause of their illness, which means they never get the treatment they need.

Genomic tests provide quicker results and diagnosis, ensuring they can get the treatment they need so they can leave hospital and return home with their families - in some cases, saving their lives.

The results of the study conducted by Melbourne Genomics Health Alliance, the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, the Royal Children’s Hospital and the Monash Children’s Hospital, found that rapid genomic sequencing tests can speed up diagnosis and deliver results up to 10 times faster than more traditional tests.

Fewer tests and time spent in hospital also means genomic sequencing is more cost effective. More than $500,000 was saved in intensive care unit costs in this study.

The 18-month project involved 40 children with a median age of just 28 days from neonatal intensive care units at the Royal Children’s Hospital and the Monash Children’s Hospital. The results have been published in Genetics in Medicine journal.

Quotes attributable to Premier Daniel Andrews

“These are more than just results – this is proof that our investment in this world-leading technology is saving the lives of some of our sickest babies and kids, and saving families thousands of dollars in expensive medical tests.”

“As a parent I can only imagine how awful it would be to have a seriously sick child and not know what was wrong with them or what the best treatment is – this technology is changing that and giving parents peace of mind.”

Quotes attributable to Minister for Health Jill Hennessy

“Watching their baby in intensive care is heartbreaking for parents. These tests help our sickest babies with rare conditions get diagnosed faster so they can get back home sooner – and, hopefully, lead happy and healthy lives.”

Reviewed 19 August 2020

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