New Blood Test May Help Predict Premature Births

10 Juin, 2018, 15:56 | Auteur: Yves Courtet
  • Premature birth test being trialled

Approximations of gestational age are typically based on ultrasound imaging and/or the patient's estimate of her last menstrual period, but neither method is necessarily ideal.

Scientists from the United States and Denmark have developed a blood test that accurately predicts 75% to 80% of preterm delivery.

He said that the findings affirmed the existence of a "transcriptomic clock of pregnancy" that could serve as a new way to assess the gestational age of a fetus. The blood test predicted reliable signals of the premature birth and gestational age with almost 80% accuracy.

To figure out how to predict pre-term birth, the researchers used blood samples from 38 women who were at risk for premature delivery. "[It] will be important to investigate the performance of the blood test in a broader, unselected population", they write in their study.

Two thirds of preterm births are spontaneous, but identifying at-risk pregnancies has proven problematic, and "efforts to identify genetic causes and risk factors have had limited success.", the researchers suggest.

About 15 million babies are born prematurely every year in the world.

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

The noninvasive procedure may help doctors prepare for hard pregnancies, which can endanger the child's life.

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In the study, published Thursday in the journal Science, the team, which was co-led by Dr. Mads Melbye, who runs the Statens Serum Institute in Denmark, analyzed the blood of 31 Danish women taken every week throughout their pregnancies, which were all full-term.

Stevenson, M.D., principal investigator at the March of Dimes Prematurity Research Center at Stanford University, describes the PCR-based tests, which can be carried out on a single blood sample, as effectively "eavesdropping on a conversation" among the mother, the fetus, and the placenta. The estimates of gestational age given by the model were accurate about 45 percent of the time, which is comparable to 48 percent accuracy for first-trimester ultrasound estimates.

Premature birth (when the baby is born at least three weeks earlier) is the main cause of infant mortality and a major cause of illness and death by the age of five years worldwide. "While ultrasound gives us a good idea of how far along a given pregnancy is. what it doesn't tell us is when a given woman will deliver".

At the same time, another part of the study looked at a separate group of pregnant women.

There is now no reliable way to predict when a pregnancy will result in premature birth, one of the world's primary causes of fetal sickness and death, Dr. Kecia Gaither, director of Perinatal Services at NYC Health+Hospitals in Bronx, New York, said in an email.

The new test tracks what's happening in pregnancy via genetic clues in the mother's blood. A study by the University of Pennsylvania linked such births to changes in the mother's bacteria.

It is nearly as if the molecular message being sent by RNA "is a little bus that travels back and forth and is letting Mom know what's going on", Cheng said.

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