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Foetus test for RhD

4th April 2008

The British Medical Journal has published the trial results of a test which identifies differences in the blood of pregnant women and their developing babies.

foetus1

If a woman is Rhesus (RhD) negative - 100,000 pregnant women per year are found to have this status - it can affect the foetus she carries.

The current treatment for a woman who has RhD negative status involves antiserum injections during the pregnancy. The treatment stops a RhD negative mother's blood from forming antibodies to a RhD positive baby's blood.

If a RhD negative woman does not receive injections during her first pregnancy, it does not cause difficulties. However, if she conceives another RhD positive foetus, then the antibodies can attack the new baby's red blood cells.

The newly developed test to show the baby's rhesus status could prevent over one third of RhD negative women from needing to have the injections. There had been concern that the injections leave women at risk to diseases such as hepatitis C.

Around 38% of RhD negative mothers carry a RhD negative child, so they do not need to receive the injections.

A team working at the NHS Blood and Transplant Centre in Bristol examined the test to see how accurately it showed a child's blood type.

Nearly 2,000 women were involved in the test and in 96% of cases, the right rhesus status of the child was shown by the test.

Study leader Geoff Daniels, head of molecular diagnostics at NHS Blood and Transplant in Bristol said tests were continuing to see if earlier predictions could be made.

"It's good practice not to give treatment to people who don't need it," he commented.

Dr Sailesh Kumar, consultant in foetal and maternal medicine at Queen Charlotte's and Chelsea Hospital in London said: "This paper shows very nicely it's possible to apply this technique to much larger numbers and that you get reliable results and you can target women who are carrying RhD positive babies."



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