By detecting pre-eclampsia early, a new blood test will’save mums and babies’ lives.
A BLOOD TEST that can detect life-threatening pre-eclampsia in expectant mothers three months before symptoms appear should allow them to receive help much sooner.
The disorder can now be identified using RNA sequencing from a single blood sample.
Pre-eclampsia, which affects 42,000 pregnancies in the UK each year, reduces blood flow through the placenta and can result in premature birth, stillbirth, or even death of the mother.
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The test, which was developed by an international team, showed a seven-fold improvement over current methods in detecting possible pre-eclampsia.
A positive test detected 73 percent of mothers whose delivery was complicated by the disorder more than three months before symptoms appeared.
The test looks at maternal, foetal, and placental RNA in the blood.
It discovers patterns linked to pre-eclampsia in 75% of cases and preterm birth in a similar percentage of cases.
“This is an entirely new way of characterising health in pregnancy that hasn’t been available up until now,” study senior author Professor Thomas McElrath of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston told Nature journal.
Using this approach to detect disease early, we will have a much better chance of treating some of these diseases therapeutically.”
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The team’s technique, in addition to predicting pre-eclampsia, estimated a woman’s progression through pregnancy as well as a second trimester ultrasound.
It even outperformed a third-trimester ultrasound.
“While much research is understandably focused on diseases that occur at the end of life, this discovery opens up a new set of tools that can be applied to problems that occur at the very beginning of life,” Prof McElrath said of the work.
“Advanced innovation is very exciting for those of us in women’s healthcare.”