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    Phenylketonuria (PKU) was the first disorder for which newborn screening (NBS) was introduced in the early 1960s. Slovenia started the NBS program for PKU in 1979, and the fluorimetric method was implemented in 1992, with a phenylalanine (Phe) cut-off set at 120 mol/L. This value has been in use for almost thirty years and has never been revised. We aimed to analyze the DBS samples and review the data from a large nationwide cohort of newborns to optimize the cut-off values for HFA screening to minimize the number of false positives while maintaining the highest level of sensitivity by detecting all those who needed to be treated. In the first prospective part of the study, we analyzed samples of all newborns in Slovenia in 2019 and 2020, and in the second retrospective part, we reviewed data from all known patients with hyperphenylalaninemia (HFA) in Slovenia born from 2000 to 2018. We defined true screening-positive cases as those that required a low-Phe diet. The sensitivity, specificity and positive predictive values of the modeling elevation of the Phe cut-off value from 120 µmol/L to 200 µmol/L were assessed. The number of recalls at the cut-off of 120 µmol/L was 108 out of 37,784 samples at NBS (2019-2020). Six newborns were defined as true positives and 102 samples as false positives. If the cut-off value was adjusted to 160 µmol/L, only 12 samples exceeded it and all six true positive newborns would be detected. Among the 360,000 samples collected at the NBS between 2000 and 2018, 72 HFA patients in need of a low-Phe diet were found. All the diagnosed cases would have been detected if the cut-off was set to 160 µmol/L. We demonstrated in a large group of newborns (400,000 in 20 years) that using the fluorimetric approach, a cut-off value of 160 µmol/L, rather than 120 mol/L, is safe and that there were no missing true positive patients who required treatment. By increasing the cut-off, this method becomes more precise, resulting in a significantly reduced rate of false positives and thus being less burdensome on both families and the healthcare system.


    Dasa Perko, Barbka Repic Lampret, Ziga Iztok Remec, Mojca Zerjav Tansek, Ana Drole Torkar, Blaz Krhin, Ajda Bicek, Adrijana Oblak, Tadej Battelino, Urh Groselj. Optimizing the Phenylalanine Cut-Off Value in a Newborn Screening Program. Genes. 2022 Mar 15;13(3)

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    PMID: 35328070

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