The NHS is one step closer to offering pregnant women, who have an increased chance of having a baby with Down’s syndrome, a new test to detect the genetic condition.
The simple blood test is used to detect Down’s syndrome and can also pick up Patau’s and Edwards’ syndromes.
The move would mean far fewer women needing invasive amniocentesis tests, which carry a 1% chance of miscarriage and around a one in 1,000 risk of serious infection.
At present, all pregnant women in England are offered a combined blood and ultrasound test when they are 10 to 14 weeks pregnant to check for abnormalities.
In new recommendations, Government advisers say women found to have a one in 150 chance or greater of having a baby with Down’s, Patau’s or Edwards’ syndrome in the combined test should then be offered the new test.
The new screening method – known as non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT) – works on the knowledge that a developing foetus’s DNA circulates in the mother’s blood.
This means some aspects of the baby’s genetic profile can be screened directly from the mother’s blood sample.
NIPT can be followed by an amniocentesis test if there is still any doubt on a diagnosis.
Ministers have yet to rubberstamp the recommendations from the UK National Screening Committee but it is hoped rollout of the test could begin soon.
Studies for NIPT have shown it to be 99% accurate in detecting Down’s.