Researchers say their work creates a simple blood test to detect the risk of premature birth and even determine the date of delivery.
Every year, 15 million babies are born premature, that is to say, at least three weeks before the date of the term. It is the leading cause of death for children under five worldwide. Currently, tests exist to predict the risks of prematurity but, according to the authors of a recent study, they are only accurate at 20% and tend to work only in high-risk women. In their work published in the journal Science Thursday, June 7, 2018, they claim to be able to develop a simple blood test, which can detect this type of birth in 80% of cases, and thus reduce the number of complications and deaths caused by premature labor.
Danish and US researchers have studied blood samples from 31 women from Denmark to identify genes that give reliable signals about gestational age and therefore the risk of prematurity. “We have found that a handful of genes are highly predictive of women at risk for preterm labor, and I have spent a lot of time working to understand premature labor, which is the first scientific advance. real and meaningful about this problem for a long time, “says Mads Melbye, co-lead author. The other researcher at the head of the study is Stephen Quarke. His work has already created in 2008 a blood test to detect trisomy 21, today used by more than 3 million future parents each year.
Concerning prematurity, the two researchers and their team want to develop a test that measures the activity of maternal, placental and fetal genes to evaluate the levels of messenger molecules in the body’s genetic instructions. For the moment, more research is needed to be ready for large scale use. This medical examination has many qualities, including not being too invasive. It could also help to estimate the date of delivery “as reliably and cheaply as ultrasound”, so doctors who follow a woman at risk will be able to prepare for premature delivery. The other advantage is that this test will be inexpensive and easy to use, so it can also be used in poor areas of the world.