Tags: New | Prenatal | Test | Offers | Quicker | Results

New Prenatal Test Offers Quicker Results

Thursday, 27 September 2001 12:00 AM

Researchers at Guy's and St. Thomas' Hospital National Health Service Trust in London report a test called quantitative fluorescence polymerase chain reaction significantly cuts down on the time patients and doctors wait for results. Although the extraction of amniotic fluid to study DNA, the genetic code for all cells, remains the same, advanced laboratory technology can produce answers to anxious parents in one or two days, compared to the current one week to two weeks it takes with standard testing.

The technique was tried for one year in which 1,148 amniotic fluid samples, 188 chorionic villus or fetal tissue samples and 37 other fetal tissue samples were examined.

Only 2 percent of the prenatal samples offered no information because the mother's cells contaminated the sample. But 98 percent did yield data on whether chromosomal abnormalities existed. Researchers in the United Kingdom could not be reached for comment. These results are reported in the Sept. 29 issue of The Lancet.

Separating the mother's cells from the fetus' can be painstaking. "It's like looking for a needle in a haystack," Dr. Paul G. McDonough, professor of obstetrics, gynecology, pediatrics and physiology at the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta, told United Press International. "And once you have those cells, you've got to be sure those are of the baby" leaving scientists with very small DNA with which to work.

It is crucial to examine the fetus' DNA because chromosomal abnormalities could indicate disease, such as Down syndrome, and if genetic tests are performed early enough in the pregnancy, results could affect whether a pregnancy is continued or not.

"Because the [standard] testing takes so long and because physicians and patients want results as soon as possible... there are a lot of investigators who are looking at ways for more rapid testing," Dr. Michael Mennuti, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia and secretary of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, told UPI.

Mennuti cautioned, however, "if the rapid test doesn't look good, are you prepared to act on the basis of that?"

Mennuti said this kind of quick testing would make a useful screening tool for pregnant women, but if there are problems, it should be followed up with standard prenatal tests before any decisions are made about the future of the pregnancy.

Still, Mennuti added, "We would be very interested in this...everybody has wanted more rapid testing. This is a step in the right direction."

Copyright 2001 by United Press International. All rights reserved.

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Researchers at Guy's and St. Thomas' Hospital National Health Service Trust in London report a test called quantitative fluorescence polymerase chain reaction significantly cuts down on the time patients and doctors wait for results. Although the extraction of amniotic...
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2001-00-27
Thursday, 27 September 2001 12:00 AM
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