The National Health Service (NHS), the publicly funded healthcare system in England, has launched a new bedside genetic test, dubbed Genedrive System, to prevent babies from going deaf.

Genedrive System takes 25 minutes to determine if a critically ill newborn admitted to intensive care has a gene that might result in irreversible hearing loss if they are treated with a common emergency antibiotic.

The new swab test, which is claimed to be the world’s first bedside genetic test, can save the hearing of 180 babies in England annually.

Genedrive System will allow newborns who have the genetic mutation to be given an alternate antibiotic within the ‘golden hour.’

Through the test, NHS aims to save £5m every year by reducing the need for other interventions, such as cochlear implants.

The system is CE certified and can be used in a clinical setting at a cost of just £80 per baby.

It was developed by a health startup, Genedrive, backed by £900,000 funding from the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and support from the charity Royal National Institute for Deaf People.

NHS national medical director Stephen Powis said: “The successful trial of this bedside test is fantastic news for the hundreds of babies and their parents who would otherwise lose their hearing when given this common antibiotic in intensive care situations.

“Through world-class innovation, the NHS is delivering cutting edge treatments to save and improve patients’ lives as well as delivering on the commitments of the NHS Long Term Plan.”

NHS and the NHS Genomic Medicine Service Alliance will carry out a feasibility study to launch the technology as a part of a clinical service through the NHS Genomic Medicine Service.

NHS genomics senior responsible officer professor Dame Sue Hill said: “Genomic medicine is transforming healthcare, and this is a powerful example of how genetic testing can now be done extremely quickly and become a vital part of triage – not only in intensive care but across our services.

“It also shows the importance of thinking about how advances in technology can rapidly transform how we use genomics closer to care for our patients.”