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Blood test predicts pregnant women’s risk of premature birth with up to 80% accuracy

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A new blood test that predicts if a pregnant woman will give birth prematurely has been developed.It is up to 80 percent accurate and can also be used to estimate the mother’s due date as reliably as an ultrasound, but costs much less, says the research team at Stanford University in California, United States (US).

Almost one out of every 10 infants born in the US is premature and the rate is going up, according to the CDC.Premature babies suffer a greater risk of breathing problems, feeding problems and are more susceptible to contracting infections.The researchers hope this new breakthrough will accurately predict delivery dates so treatment can be provided immediately after birth or lead to new drugs to delay premature birth.

Premature birth occurs when a baby arrives at least three weeks early.Prior to this new technique, the best tests only predicted premature birth in high-risk women, such as women who conceived through In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF), suffered multiple miscarriages or had already given birth prematurely.

Additionally, they only proved correct around 20 percent of the time.“They were very good at determining if the woman wouldn’t deliver preterm, if the test came back ‘no’,” Mira Moufarrej, a bioengineering PhD student at Stanford, told Daily Mail Online.

“But they were not very good at predicting if or when the woman would deliver preterm, if the test came back ‘yes’.“The difference is our test is very good at determining ‘yes’.”
This new blood test looks at genes in blood samples from pregnant women and measures the levels of RNA, which carries instructions from DNA to parts of the body that make proteins.

From there the scientists worked to identify which genes give reliable signals about the risk of premature birth and gestational age, or how far long a pregnancy is.About 10 percent of babies born in the US each year are premature. A birth is premature if the baby arrives at least three weeks early – or prior to 37 weeks.

Premature babies or ‘preemies’ are often underweight and small. They sometimes continue to have delayed physical growth and development. Early birth has also been linked to broad behavioral and personality issues, thought to be caused by abnormalities in brain development.

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety, neurological disorders and autism are all more common in preemies.The lungs are one of the last vital organs to fully develop – only becoming mature after 32 weeks – so preemies frequently suffer from asthma and other pulmonary problems. Children born premature are also more likely to later have intestinal, hearing, vision and dental problems and get frequent infections.


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