"Congenital hypothyroidism is a condition in new born babies caused due to deficiency of thyroid hormones, which are essential for brain development and overall growth," Manipal Hospital's pediatric endocrinologist Shaila Bhattacharyya told reporters here.

The study was conducted by the Indian Council of Medical Research for GlaxoSmithKline Pharmaceuticals, the Indian subsidiary of the British healthcare major.

Most new-born babies with congenital hypothyroidism appear normal at birth despite lack of development of the thyroid gland, as a small amount of thyroid hormone (T4) is transferred to them from mothers during pregnancy.

"Once a baby is diagnosed with congenital hypothyroidism, its thyroid hormone should be replaced immediately to prevent them from taking it for the rest of its life," Bhattacharyya said.

Though most cases of congenital hypothyroidism cannot be prevented, Bhattacharyya said the risk could be reduced by giving enough iodine to pregnant mothers under strict supervision of a doctor.

"As congenital hypothyroidism is a critical health issue, creating public awareness on its fallout will help making its screening mandatory for pregnant women," Bhattacharyya asserted.

According to the study, worldwide congenital hypothyroidism affects one in 3,800 new born babies it is one in 1,172 in India, making the problem of disorder much worse.

"Congenital hypothyroidism is not a heritable disorder and it's not possible to identify a population of pregnant women who are at high risk for fetal hypothyroidism," Bhattacharyya added.

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