Genetic testing could be used to predict which newborns may require readmission to hospital shortly after birth, according to two new studies being carried out at Children’s Mercy Hospitals & Clinics in Kansas City, USA.

One study is being conducted on 3,500 newborns to develop an electronic tool that can be used by clinicians in nurseries across the USA to dramatically improve prediction of risk for hyperbilirubinemia and prevent complications due to late detection.

Hyperbilirubinemia, a blood disorder, leads to about 85% of hospital readmissions during the first two weeks of life and can be devastating for the infant if not promptly treated.

The other study being conducted by Children’s Mercy researchers is expected to help predict inhaled steroid sensitivity in patients with asthma. Inhaled steroids can be effective at keeping asthma under control but they carry a risk of side effects and may not work in up to 35% of patients.

The asthma research, led by Bridgette L Jones and Carrie A Vyhlidal at Children’s Mercy Hospitals and Clinics, uses tissue samples to identify ways to predict which patients will respond best to treatment.

Knowing in advance the babies likely to experience symptoms can provide reassurance for parents and guidance for clinicians in determining which babies may benefit from more careful monitoring, researchers said.