UK may be first in the world to screen newborns' DNA for killer diseases such as cancer

Doctors say the move will save millions of lives by speeding up diagnosis and treating patients sooner.

The test could replace the heel prick currently used by the NHS to look for nine illnesses, such as cystic fibrosis.

Health chiefs revealed yesterday scientists have sequenced 100,000 genomes as part of a trial that has helped thousands.

Genomics England — the government body responsible — is now aiming for five million and says the test could be used routinely at birth. Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “We are leading the world in genomics and this is a major milestone in our mission to provide truly personalised care to help patients live longer, healthier and happier lives.”

The first human genome was sequenced in 2002 at a cost of £2.5billion, but the process can now be done for just £500.

Reading a person’s genetic blueprint can identify diseases present from birth and highlight a higher risk of cancer, dementia and heart disease.

But officials alarmed privacy campaigners by admitting hackers have tried — and failed — to access the DNA database.

Phil Booth, of MedConfidential, warned “criminals, states or companies” could use the information for nefarious means.

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