Australia to fund pre-implantation genetic testing to avoid births with genetic defects

The Australian government has announced that it will fund pre-implantation genetic testing for IVF procedures. According to the health department, the testing services will help stop parents from passing serious genetic disorders onto their child.

“That means that if there is a fertilised egg that is clear of SMA or fragile x, they can go ahead with the IVF, go ahead knowing this beautiful young child will be born free of the condition which might otherwise lead to an agonising one or two years of life,” Health Minister Greg Hunt told a press conference.

Until now, carriers of serious genetic disorders had to pay for testing out of their own pocket. Now they will be able to claim a Medicare rebate for genetic disorders like cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy, spinal muscular atrophy, fragile X, neurofibromatosis, achondroplasia, and Huntington disease. Down syndrome is not mentioned in the Health Department’s background paper, but would almost certainly be eligible.

PGT is a technique which can be used to test embryos for either a specific known single gene condition or chromosome variation. This allows chromosomally healthy embryos or those unaffected by a specific genetic disorder to be selected for implantation during an IVF cycle, maximising the chance of a healthy baby. The government is providing A$95.9 million for PGT services through Medicare.

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