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Calls for cholesterol screening at first MMR

By Christian Duffin

Children should be screened at GP practices for cholesterol disorder when they attend for their first MMR vaccination, a research study published in the BMJ has concluded.

The researchers argue screening at around 15 months would allow detection and treatment of familial hypercholesterolaemia which affects two in every 1,000 people.

Identifying an affected child would also lead to identification of a parent with the disorder.

Three researchers based at London's Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine, made the screening recommendation.

It followed their analysis of 13 previously published studies from various countries on screening for children of different ages.

Their report said: ‘The proposed strategy of screening children and parents for familial hypercholesterolaemia could have considerable impact in preventing the medical consequences of the disorder in two generations simultaneously. A blood spot could be collected at the same time the MMR vaccination is given.'

The researchers led by consultant cardiologist David Ward, said children would not be given statins for the disorder until they were older.

Dr Anthony Harnden, a GP with a special interest in paediatrics, and lecturer at Oxford University, said ethical issues had to be considered.

‘I would question whether it is ethically acceptable to do screening which tests one individual, but actually has the primary purpose of identifying a disorder in another.'

He cautioned that a large screening programme would require extra funding for higher staff, equipment and admin costs.

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