New Down test is safer, scientists say

Pregnant women may soon be able to have a blood test to predict whether their babies are likely to have Down syndrome instead of undergoing risky tests, scientists said yesterday.

Pregnant women may soon be able to have a blood test to predict whether their babies are likely to have Down syndrome instead of undergoing risky tests, scientists said yesterday.

In a study in the Nature Medicine journal researchers from Cyprus said a trial on 40 pregnancies using the test, which involves analyzing the woman’s blood to detect DNA differences between the mother and the fetus, showed it accurately predicted which fetuses were at risk of developing the syndrome.

Philippos Patsalis — medical director of the Cyprus Institute of Neurology and Genetics, who led the study — said the results were “very exciting” but the test now needed to be tried in a larger study of about 1,000 pregnancies. It could lead to changes in clinical practice within two years.

“We believe we can modify this test and ... we can have something ready to be introduced into the clinic,” he told Reuters.

Doctors currently use a test known as amniocentesis to check whether a baby is likely to be born with Down. This test involves taking amniotic fluid from the mother by inserting a hollow needle into the uterus.

 
 
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