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Special Article
July 26, 1999

Genetic Testing for Cystic Fibrosis

National Institutes of Health Consensus Development Conference Statement on Genetic Testing for Cystic Fibrosis
Author Affiliations

NIH Consensus Development Conferences are convened to evaluate available scientific information and resolve safety and efficacy issues related to biomedical technology. The resultant NIH Consensus Statements are intended to advance understanding of the technology or issue in question and to be useful to health professionals and the public. See the acknowledgments section for additional information about NIH Consensus Statements.

Arch Intern Med. 1999;159(14):1529-1539. doi:10.1001/archinte.159.14.1529
Abstract

Objective  To provide health care providers, patients, and the general public with a responsible assessment of the optimal practices for genetic testing for cystic fibrosis (CF).

Participants  A nonfederal, nonadvocate, 14-member panel representing the fields of genetics, obstetrics, internal medicine, nursing, social work, epidemiology, pediatrics, psychiatry, genetic counseling, bioethics, health economics, health services research, law, and the public. In addition, 21 experts from these same fields presented data to the panel and a conference audience of 500.

Evidence  The literature was searched through MEDLINE, and an extensive bibliography of references was provided to the panel and the conference audience. Experts prepared abstracts with relevant citations from the literature. Scientific evidence was given precedence over clinical anecdotal experience.

Consensus Process  The panel, answering predefined questions, developed its conclusions based on the scientific evidence presented in open forum and the scientific literature. The panel composed a draft statement that was read in its entirety and circulated to the experts and the audience for comment. Thereafter, the panel resolved conflicting recommendations and released a revised statement at the end of the conference. The panel finalized the revisions within a few weeks after the conference.

Conclusions  Genetic testing for CF should be offered to adults with a positive family history of CF, to partners of people with CF, to couples currently planning a pregnancy, and to couples seeking prenatal care. The panel does not recommend offering CF genetic testing to the general population or newborns. The panel advocates active research to develop improved treatments for people with CF and continued investigation into the understanding of the pathophysiology of the disease. Comprehensive educational programs targeted to health care professionals and the public should be developed using input from people living with CF and their families and from people from diverse racial and ethnic groups. Additionally, genetic counseling services must be accurate and provide balanced information to afford individuals the opportunity to make autonomous decisions. Every attempt should be made to protect individual rights, genetic and medical privacy rights, and to prevent discrimination and stigmatization. It is essential that the offering of CF carrier testing be phased in over a period to ensure that adequate education and appropriate genetic testing and counseling services are available to all persons being tested.

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