Novel blood test to identify premature birth

Premature birth test being trialled

A Simple Blood Test Could Soon Accurately Predict Due Dates And Premature Births

The women gave blood samples during the second or third trimester of their pregnancy, and of them, 15 ended up having preterm deliveries. They have also struggled to understand why so many pregnancies ended early.

There are reasons to be cautious about the news.

The appeal of such tests is obvious, especially to pregnant women.

"Noninvasive blood tests for fetal development predict gestational age and preterm delivery", by Thuy T.M. Ngo et al., appears in the June 8 issue of Science.

The current study is far from ready for use, but researchers say that the study looks promising. Getting a heads-up on its risks has the potential to save a lot of lives. Preparing for an imminent birth can boost the survival rates of fragile infants. This could help save the babies who would have died because they were born too early.

And it is hard to accurately predict delivery dates, she said. At present, the test has a precision of about 45% in predicting a baby's birth time, compared with 48% of ultrasound in the first trimester of pregnancy.

Ultrasound tests, now a familiar gold-standard procedure during pregnancy, can show a fetus' development but they're expensive so they're not ideal in poor communities around the world. Estimates of menstrual periods can be imprecise.

Not knowing the exact number of weeks of a pregnancy means doctors may think a baby is overdue when it's not - and that can lead to unnecessary induction of labor, C-sections, extended postnatal care and increased medical expenses.

"The medical community, particularly the neonatal/perinatal community, would be exceedingly welcoming to have such a useful test", she said. Quake said the team is developing plans for a large clinical trial in the general population.

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But what if there were a cheap way to predict a baby's birthday accurately, including the risk of a premature baby?

The blood test reportedly measures maternal, placental, and fetal genes in the mother's cell-free RNA.

To develop the test, researchers examined blood samples from 31 Danish women to identify which genes gave reliable signals about gestational age and prematurity risk. The genetic activity reveals physiological changes in the tissues and organs of both the mother and the baby - and clues of distress that can precede premature delivery.

"We found that some genes are very good predictors of what women are at risk of giving birth prematurely".

"This gives a super-high resolution view of pregnancy and human development that no one's ever seen before". However, the test did not predict preterm births as all of the women had full-term pregnancies.

The US and Danish and scientists have created a new low-cost blood test which may be able to predict around 80% accurate results on when a pregnant woman will go into labour or if she will have a premature delivery.

The free-floating genetic material has proven to be a powerful tool for detecting other problems, as well.

They acknowledge that their studies will need verifiying in much larger, ethnically diverse cohorts, including women who aren't already known to be at risk of preterm birth.

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