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University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital Screens Newborns for Severe Combined Immunodeficiency (SCID)

UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital provides a comprehensive newborn screening test for severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID). The simple blood test is performed at the hospital with other newborn screening tests before discharge.

Severe Combined Immunodeficiency (SCID)

SCID includes more than a dozen different genetic disorders, all of which result in a failure to develop T cells and inability to make protective antibodies. Newborns with SCID usually appear healthy at first. This is because the mother’s immune system protects the newborn from infections for the first few weeks of life. However, without treatment for SCID, even common childhood conditions can start by 2 to 4 months of age and become life-threatening, including:

If a baby has SCID, the doctors at UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital develop a specialized treatment plan to help prevent infections and establish a functioning immune system.

Abnormal Test Results

An abnormal screening test for SCID means the newborn may have a low number of a type of white blood cell called T cells. Low numbers of T cells could place the baby at risk for serious, life-threatening infections.

The screening test alone cannot be used to make a diagnosis of SCID, which is why a new blood test is needed to determine if the baby has the life-threatening immune disorder. At UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital, parents will receive instructions from their medical provider or state newborn screening program about getting a new specimen without delay.

Treating SCID Effectively

A diagnostic evaluation by a board-certified immunologist at the Division of Pediatric Allergy/Immunology will determine what kind of treatment is needed, however a bone marrow transplant is the most effective treatment for SCID. This treatment can be done soon after birth and has a high success rate when done in the first few months of a baby’s life. Without SCID treatment, survival beyond one year of age is unusual. Some of the other conditions associated with low T cells will require additional testing and can be treated with other therapies, including antibiotics for the recurrent infections and antibody replacement (IVIG) therapy.