JOHANNESBURG: For the first time, many South African babies born with Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) will be diagnosed at birth - giving them a far better chance of getting help.
It was announced last week that the world's first commercial project to diagnose and analyse the syndrome in new-born babies was being launched in South Africa.
FAS is a birth defect caused by alcohol consumption of mothers during pregnancy.
It is characterised by growth and mental retardation, facial and neural abnormalities as well as malformation of organs.
Children suffering from the syndrome have learning disabilities, show poor co-ordination, have problems with memory and exhibit hyperactivity and behavioural problems.
It is estimated that South Africa has 4 000 reported new cases of FAS every year, the highest in the world. The majority of these cases are reported in the Northern and Western Cape.
The test, which will be used in a few targeted areas, was developed by English company Trimega Laboratories, founded and led by South African entrepreneur Avi Lasarow.
Trimega was the first company to market hair alcohol testing and the test for the syndrome in babies is based on a similar system. It is working in partnership with local forensic science company Tripelo, which will be conducting the tests.
Lasarow said the test is done on the baby's first stool, which will be taken from the hospital to the laboratory. The tests will be able to see if the baby has high levels of alcohol in its system. …