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Newborn Genomes, or Maybe Not

The UK's National Health Service may eventually do whole-genome sequencing on all newborns, according to The Telegraph, which reported on comments Health Secretary Matt Hancock made at a recent genetics meeting.

"Mr. Hancock told a conference by Genomics England that children would get the 'best start in life' if they were offered gene mapping alongside the standard checks offered within days of birth, to test for rare diseases," health editor Laura Donnelly writes.

She notes that the UK's existing plans call for genetic testing on pediatric cancer patients by the end of 2019, along with genome sequencing on millions of individuals in the coming years to inform adult cancer and rare disease cases.

If newborn sequencing does become more widespread, "kids' entire genetic sequence will be mapped out long before they can understand what that means or agree to having it done," Dan Robitzski notes in Futurism.

"As genomic science develops, dilemmas about personal privacy and what happens to the data after it's collected are still far from being sorted out," he adds.

If the plan does come to fruition, The Times reports, DNA test results, including those related to the risk of cancer, Alzheimer's disease, and other conditions, would become part of a child's medical records.

Earlier this year, the NHS presented a 10-year plan for sequencing children with cancer, rare genetic disorders, or other conditions, but distanced itself from plans to sequence healthy individuals.