A new non-invasive blood test for Down’s Syndrome is being trialled at two hospitals from next month.
Pregnant women at King’s College Hospital in south London and Medway Maritime hospital in Kent will be offered the test, which researchers claim can identify with 99 per cent certainty whether an unborn baby will have Down’s Syndrome, reports the Telegraph.
The NHS currently offers pregnant women two tests, which, it states “don’t tell you for definite if your baby has Down’s syndrome – they tell you how likely it is that your baby might have it”.
Current NHS tests involve a blood test looking at proteins associated with pregnancy and a nuchal translucency scan between 11 weeks, 2 days and 14 weeks, 1 day of pregnancy, which measure the fluid at the back of a baby’s neck.
If the result shows the risk of the baby having Down’s syndrome is greater than the recommended national cut-off level for risk (1 in 150), a woman will be offered either chorionic villus sampling (CVS) or amniocentesis, both of which involve a needle being inserted into the womb. About 30,000 of the 600,000 women who give birth every year are deemed at high risk.
Almost 300 miscarriages each year occur from CVS or amnioventesis, which carries a one in 100 risk of miscarriage.
Although the new test is currently too expensive to be offered countrywide, the hope is that pharmaceutical companies will cut the price in the future.