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Guthrie Test – A Test That Brought PKU Screening To Every Hospital

Guthrie test, named after American bacteriologist Dr. Robert Guthrie (1916. – 1995.), is a newborn phenylketonuria (PKU) screening tool which measures the level of phenylalanine (Phe) amino acid in infants’ blood. Even though PKU was discovered in 1934., Dr. Guthrie simplified the test in 1961. and later brought the mass PKU screening to every hospital in the world.

The procedure is pretty straightforward – the blood is collected from baby’s heel, usually within 48 hours after birth, and then is sent to a laboratory. Once the blood has dried on a filter paper, a small disc is punched out and placed on the agar plate that contains a substance (B-2-thienylalanine) that inhibits the growth of bacteria (Bacillus subtilis). However, if the elevated levels of Phe in the blood are present, the bacteria will begin to grow, allowing doctors to accurately detect the PKU disorder.

Want to learn more?


“The PKU Paradox: A Short History of a Genetic Disease” by Diane B. Paul and Jeffrey P. Brosco.

“Robert Guthrie–The Pku Story: Crusade Against Mental Retardation” by Jean Holt Koch.

“Low Protein Cookery for Phenylketonuria” by Virginia E. Schuett.

“Low Protein Food List for PKU” by Virginia E. Schuett.

“Low Protein Bread Machine Baking for PKU” by Virginia E. Schuett.

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