Diagnosing CF

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Since 1986, all newborns in Australia, have been subject to a heel prick test. This test is used to screen for a number of conditions, one of which is an indicator for cystic fibrosis (CF).


The heel prick test usually happens between 48 and 72 hours after a baby is born. The blood sample from this test is collected on a piece of card and sent to a laboratory for testing. If your baby is found to have a medical condition, parents will be contacted. 

The heel prick test does not detect everyone and a sweat test may be required, as high levels of salt in perspiration is extremely common amongst those with CF.


Diagnosis may also result after a baby is born with obvious CF symptoms such as a bowel blockage or failure to “thrive”.


Occasionally CF may not be diagnosed until later in life. Some children are diagnosed later in childhood, whether it be weeks after birth or even years, and sometimes CF is not diagnosed until adulthood.


One reason for this is that CF can vary widely in its severity and symptoms, and can resemble other lung conditions such as asthma or bronchitis which makes diagnosis challenging. Another reason is that there are around 2,000 different gene changes that cause CF and some genes have been identified after a person has had their newborn heel prick test, or the gene they have is harder to detect.

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