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Test to Prevent Hearing Loss

Researchers have developed a genetic test to identify children who may be at risk of hearing damage due to antibiotic treatment, New Scientist reports.

The antibiotic gentamicin is commonly prescribed to infants with sepsis, but about 1 in 500 individuals have a gene variant that increases their risk of hearing loss following such treatment. New Scientist notes that hospitals typically use PCR-based tests to determine if an infant has the variant, but that the turnaround time can be days and treatment needs to begin immediately. It notes that the company Genedrive has now developed an RT-LAMP-based test for the variant.

Researchers from Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust have assessed this new approach at two hospitals. As they report in JAMA Pediatrics, they found that the test was able to provide infants' genotypes within 26 minutes with high sensitivity and specificity. Of the 526 infants who underwent testing, three had the gene variant and received alternative antibiotic treatment.

However, New Scientist notes that the test was unable to return results for 17 percent of cases.

The Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust hospitals plan to begin routinely using the test next week, it adds.