New blood test could tell pregnant women whether birth will be premature

  • New blood test could tell pregnant women whether birth will be premature

New blood test could tell pregnant women whether birth will be premature

The test estimated due dates within two weeks in almost half the cases, making it as accurate as the current, more expensive method, ultrasound, and more accurate than guesses based on a woman's last period.

The US and Danish and scientists have created a new low-priced 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 test, which detects changes in RNA circulating in a pregnant women's blood, estimated due dates within two weeks in almost half the cases, making it as accurate as the current, more expensive method, ultrasound, and more accurate than guesses based on a woman's last period.

In two separate cohorts of women, all at elevated risk of delivering preterm, the research team identified a set of cell-free RNA (cfRNA) transcripts that accurately classified women who delivered preterm up to two months in advance of labor.

So far, researchers are preparing to conduct the test in larger populations before making the test available to the public, and also to fully understand the mechanisms behind preterm births.

Preterm births is the largest cause of infant mortality in the United States.

Almost one in ten births in nations like the USA are premature, risking complications that make it a leading cause of infant mortality.

"We found that a handful of genes are very highly predictive of which women are at risk for preterm delivery", said Mads Melbye, a visiting professor at Stanford.

David K. Stevenson, M.D., the principal investigator of the March of Dimes Prematurity Research Center at Stanford University, described the noninvasive blood test approach as a way of "eavesdropping on a conversation" between the mother, the fetus and the placenta, without disturbing the pregnancy. Doctors now rely on ultrasound imaging or the mother's estimate of her last menstrual period to predict the gestational age of a fetus.

Scientists are exploring the possibility of predicting the due dates and premature birth risks in pregnant women via blood test.

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. Current methods to estimate delivery date generally assume normal development and do not account for premature birth. The New York Times reported that the research, which is still in preliminary stages, detects changes in RNA in a pregnant woman's blood and can estimate due dates within 2 weeks in almost half the cases. A newly developed blood test may help doctors predict preterm birth risks, thereby giving mothers a chance to reduce potential risks and complications.

"The strength of the study is showing there are molecular milestones that are achieved by the fetus and by the placenta", she said.

The Stanford team read these signals not just from the mom's cells but also from the fetal cells that flow into the mother's blood.

Scientists from the Statens Serum Institute in Copenhagen, the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and the University of Alabama-Birmingham also contributed to the study.