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November 3, 2016

UK approves new non-invasive screening test for pregnant women

A new non-invasive prenatal test for Down’s, Edwards’ and Patau’s syndromes has been approved in the UK.

By Srijanee Chakraborthy

A new non-invasive prenatal test for Down’s, Edwards’ and Patau’s syndromes has been approved in the UK.

The test has been approved in response to clinical recommendations done by experts at the UK National Screening Committee.

The additional test will serve as a safer alternative to the invasive diagnostic test advised to women which identifies chromosomal syndromes such as Down’s, Edwards’ and Patau’s syndromes developed by the foetus.

An invasive diagnostic test takes a sample of amniotic fluid or placental tissue from the womb which poses a mild risk of miscarriage as it removes cells from amniotic fluid around the foetus.

UK Health Minister Philip Dunne said: “We want women to be able to access the safest screening tests available, so based on the clinical evidence, we have approved the use of a new non-invasive prenatal test for Down’s, Edwards’ and Patau’s syndromes.

“By offering non-invasive prenatal testing, fewer pregnant women will go on to be offered diagnostic testing which carries a risk of miscarriage.”

The new test is expected to reduce the number of women undergoing invasive testing each year which will subsequently result to a fall in number of miscarriages related to the invasive diagnostic test.

The authority is planning to launch the test for an initial period of three years along with staff training.

National Health Service will start offering the test from 2018 or 2019.

"By offering non-invasive prenatal testing, fewer pregnant women will go on to be offered diagnostic testing which carries a risk of miscarriage."

UK National Screening Committee director of programmes Dr Anne Mackie said: “We will closely manage the roll out of non-invasive prenatal testing to give us a better understanding of the impact it has on the decisions women and their partners make following their test results.

“We are developing the full detail of the roll out, including the number of sites involved and the results and information to be collected.

“Key to ensuring we get this right is the work we are doing with patient groups, scientists and clinicians, to help us develop balanced informative resources for the public and health professionals.”


Image: A doctor using a stethoscope on a pregnant woman. Photo: © Crown copyright.

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