BEIJING, Sept. 14 (Xinhua) -- A total of 509 babies suffering a congenital metabolic disorder have received free medical help and formula powder under China's first program to help infants with the disease.
The babies suffering phenylketonuria (PKU) are from 21 of the less developed regions in central and western China, according to a symposium held on Thursday.
Congenital metabolic disorder can cause brain damage and mental retardation.
According to statistics, as of June this year, 94 percent of grant-aided PKU infants have been kept in treatment and more than 90 percent are developing normally both physically and mentally.
Zhang Deying, an official with the Ministry of Health, said that the PKU treatment fees are relatively high and have not yet been included in the new rural cooperative medical insurance.
"We are now trying to offer more help to the PKU patients, and the program has made a good start for the government, medical care institutions and society to help PKU babies," Zhang said.
PKU is a genetic disorder of metabolism that can cause an excessive amount of phenylalanine (Phe) in the body, which can be detected in urine.
If left untreated, it can affect brain development, causing mental retardation, brain damage and seizures. However, the disorder can be treated with a low-Phe diet by lowering the Phe level to a safe range.
The program is supported by the relevant department under the ministry and the U.S.-based milk powder manufacturer Mead Johnson.