Rhode Island has expanded its program of infant screening to include a rare immune deficiency. The state Health Department said all newborns will be screened for severe combined immunodeficiency, or SCID, beginning Friday.

The disease causes dangerously low levels of the white blood cells that protect against infection. Babies who have the condition appear healthy at birth but can become seriously ill if they get common infections. The best cure is a bone-marrow transplant if babies are diagnosed by three months of age.

The addition of SCID was recommended by the federal government and endorsed by a state newborn screening advisory panel. The Health Department director, Michael Fine, said that without the new screening, doctors are not likely to diagnose the disease before it can cause serious problems or possibly death.

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