Test for pre-eclampsia developed

May 4, 2011
Test for pre-eclampsia developed
A pregnant woman

(Medical Xpress) -- Scientists at King’s have pioneered a new method of identifying early in pregnancy which healthy first-time mothers are at risk of developing pre-eclampsia, a potentially life threatening condition that complicates one in 20 first pregnancies. 

Pre-eclampsia is a hypertensive condition that can cause mothers to become very unwell with kidney or liver damage, blood clotting problems and seizures. This prototype test for the first time determines how a combination of possible risk factors can predict the likelihood of developing

Researchers say although it needs validation, this test could improve detection rates of the pre-eclampsia, which will ensure a group of healthy first time mothers, who would otherwise not be identified as high-risk, receive the appropriate care  to prevent the condition. 

The study was funded by several organizations including the Foundation for Research and Technology, New Zealand, Tommy’s, the baby charity, and Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity. The findings are reported in the British Medical Journal.

Worldwide approximately 70,000 women die from the condition each year. Babies born to women with pre-eclampsia have a three to 10-fold increased risk of death and a quarter are born premature. NICE guidelines to identify high risk women based on factors such as older age or high body mass index do exist, but at the moment there is no way to accurately identify which healthy women in their first pregnancy are likely to develop pre-eclampsia.

Led by Professor Robyn North, from the Division of Women’s Health at King’s College London, the team of researchers analysed the medical and family history, lifestyles and clinical examination findings of over 3,500 healthy first-time mothers participating in the SCOPE project, an international study in the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Australia and Ireland.

The findings

The study found that five percent of women developed pre-eclampsia, and of these women up to two thirds could be recognised as high-risk using a combination of clinical risk factors including: high blood pressure; high body mass index; family history of pre-eclampsia or coronary heart disease; their own birth weight; and early bleeding in pregnancy. 

Factors found to be associated with reduced risk included: a previous single miscarriage with the same partner, taking at least 12 months to conceive, a high intake of fruit, cigarette smoking and alcohol use in the first trimester.  The researchers caution that it is not yet known why these factors are associated with a lower risk in this study and expectant mothers should continue to follow Department of Health advice on keeping healthy in pregnancy.

The researchers proposed a framework for specialist referral using these factors, along with an ultrasound scan, that was able to identify half of the women who developed preeclampsia and went on to have a premature baby. 

Professor Robyn North from King’s said: ‘Pre-eclampsia is a very serious condition, and if we could detect who is likely to develop it, then antenatal care could be tailored accordingly.

"We have developed a model which, for the first time, allows us to predict increased risk of pre-eclampsia for otherwise healthy first-time mums. We now need to validate the test in further studies, but this is the first stage towards creating a robust test which uses clinical information alongside blood tests to build a clearer picture of a woman’s risk of developing the condition. 

"If it’s known that a mother is at high-risk of developing pre-eclampsia, then she can be offered the specialist care she needs right from the start. This will mean warning signs are picked up earlier, and any complications managed more effectively to prevent her health, and her baby’s health, from deteriorating."

Explore further: Heart drugs could cut blood pressure risks in pregnancy

Related Stories

Heart drugs could cut blood pressure risks in pregnancy

April 20, 2011
Pregnant women could benefit from a pioneering trial that will test whether heart disease drugs can be used to treat pre-eclampsia.

Recommended for you

Google searches can be used to track dengue in underdeveloped countries

July 20, 2017
An analytical tool that combines Google search data with government-provided clinical data can quickly and accurately track dengue fever in less-developed countries, according to new research published in PLOS Computational ...

MRSA emerged years before methicillin was even discovered

July 19, 2017
Methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) emerged long before the introduction of the antibiotic methicillin into clinical practice, according to a study published in the open access journal Genome Biology. It was ...

New test distinguishes Zika from similar viral infections

July 18, 2017
A new test is the best-to-date in differentiating Zika virus infections from infections caused by similar viruses. The antibody-based assay, developed by researchers at UC Berkeley and Humabs BioMed, a private biotechnology ...

'Superbugs' study reveals complex picture of E. coli bloodstream infections

July 18, 2017
The first large-scale genetic study of Escherichia coli (E. coli) cultured from patients with bloodstream infections in England showed that drug resistant 'superbugs' are not always out-competing other strains. Research by ...

Ebola virus can persist in monkeys that survived disease, even after symptoms disappear

July 17, 2017
Ebola virus infection can be detected in rhesus monkeys that survive the disease and no longer show symptoms, according to research published by Army scientists in today's online edition of the journal Nature Microbiology. ...

Mountain gorillas have herpes virus similar to that found in humans

July 13, 2017
Scientists from the University of California, Davis, have detected a herpes virus in wild mountain gorillas that is very similar to the Epstein-Barr virus in humans, according to a study published today in the journal Scientific ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.