A new blood test can now detect a pregnant woman’s risk of having a premature birth from 18 weeks gestation.
A team of researchers from Australia and North America developed the breakthrough test that they claim provides the most accurate and earliest result possible.
A recent trial including 2000 “multi-ethnic, low risk Canadian women” recorded an 86 per cent accuracy rate, the ABC reports.
The next step is to test Australian women, with the ultimate plan being to roll the new test out worldwide as part of the standard foetal anatomy scan usually done at 18 to 20 weeks into pregnancy.
University of Western Australia’s School of Women’s and Infants’ Health Associate Professor Craig Pennell tells the ABC if the risk of premature birth can be identified early, woman can seek specialist care and intervention.
“One of the biggest problems with premature birth is that it is very hard to predict in the middle of pregnancy which deliveries will occur before 37 weeks gestation,” Associate Professor Pennell says.
“Our new test will enable women at high risk early access to medical care which will reduce the rate of preterm birth.”
During the trial a blood sample was taken from each patient, and all were asked six clinical information questions.
“We’ve identified six genes out of the 21,000 that exist and based on the pattern of those genes being turned off or on, when you couple that with clinical information it appears very effective at predicting preterm birth,” Associate Professor Pennell says.
He says 15 million babies are born prematurely each year across the globe and one million of them do not survive.
In Australia alone, more than 26,000 pre-term babies are born and about 4000 of those will have disability related to preterm birth.
Preterm babies are also at risk of brain injuries, cerebral palsy, vision and hearing impairments as well as other conditions impacting their organs.
Who can forget Baby Jack Grier? He arrived 16 weeks premature with his twin brother, Greyson, who sadly was stillborn. Their mum made a heartwarming first birthday video for Jack to show the journey they all faced to the milestone she never thought he would see.
(story via ABC)