London: Scientists at Plymouth University have developed a non-invasive, low risk and accurate blood test that can detect foetal blood group, sex, and genetic conditions in unborn babies.
"Although foetal blood grouping and sexing using maternal blood has been done for over a decade, this research proves a much more accurate and sensitive method of detecting foetal DNA," said lead corresponding author professor Neil Avent.
The test developed can be carried out on mothers at risk of X-linked genetic recessive diseases including haemophilia and Duchenne muscular dystrophy and mothers at risk of haemolytic disease of the newborn.
It can use the blood that is taken from the mother at the early stages of pregnancy, negating the need for multiple appointments.
"This offers great opportunities to detect other conditions using this technique, but is much cheaper than current non-invasive methods. The end is now in sight for the invasive techniques of amniocentesis and chorionic villus sampling," Mr Avent added.
The traditional amniocentesis test involves a needle and carries a minor (one per cent) risk of miscarriage.
The new technique represents a comparatively low-risk method for the early identification of a number of conditions, which in turn will aid earlier diagnosis and possible therapies to the potential benefit of both mother and child.
"Doing a test is an option for people continuing with a pregnancy as they have the right to know what is ahead," said Dr Ross Welch, a consultant in feto-maternal medicine at Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust.
The study was published in the journal Clinical Chemistry.