New Down’s Syndrome Test to be Made Available on the NHS

A more accurate and safer test for Down’s syndrome has just been developed, and this is to be made available on the NHS.

The test will reduce the risk of miscarriage, and has been welcomed by the UK National Screening Committee.

It is believed that this latest initiative will prevent thousands of invasive procedures.

Although these invasive procedures are relatively sophisticated, it is nonetheless the case that one in every 200 women who undergoes them loses her baby.

The test analyses tiny fragments of the baby’s DNA that end up in the mother’s blood, to look for abnormalities.

Currently, the NHS will provide screening for women between 11 and 14 weeks into their pregnancy.

A combination of different factors are taken into consideration, with this matrix ultimately being utilised in order to assess the chances of baby possessing Down’s syndrome.

Previously, those mothers with the chance of having a baby with Down’s syndrome were offered an amniocentesis, but the new non-invasive prenatal blood test (NIPT) will now be offered to women as an alternative.

This is considered to be a significant improvement to the process, as the previous approach was somewhat risky, and also provided a negative result in the overwhelming majority of cases.

Commenting on the new procedure, Dr Anne Mackie, the director of programmes at the UK National Screening Committee, suggested that the new process would be a massive step forward over the previous approach.

“I think it has the potential to make a great deal of difference. It will give more accurate results and reduce anxiety in a significant number of people.”

Estimates suggest between 3,000 and 5,000 amniocenteses each year will no longer be necessary.

In order to assess the efficacy of the new procedure, Great Ormond Street Hospital conducted trials with the intention of assessing how NIPT could be used on the NHS.

The results from this experiment suggested that many women who would have refused the previous procedure, instead opted for this new and safer test.

Prof Lyn Chitty, who led those trials, was of the opinion that this new test will be beneficial to women all over the United Kingdom.

“I’m very pleased that they’ve made the decision to introduce it into NHS maternity care for all women, we know many are going to the private sector for it at the moment. For those getting reassurance, it’s great and they can enjoy the rest of their pregnancy. For those with a positive diagnosis, we have to put measures in place to support them.”

About 775 babies are born with Down’s syndrome each year in England and Wales.

 

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