Many are hoping that health ministers would approve of a simple blood test that detects Down's Syndrome in unborn children, which will prevent hundreds of unnecessary miscarriages in the future, reported Telegraph on Friday.
Currently, expecting mothers who are at risk of having children with the condition have an option to undergo an invasive procedure known as the amniocentesis test. This procedure requires a needle to be inserted into the wall of the uterus to extract a sample of the amniotic fluid for the purpose of detecting fetal infections and chromosomal abnormalities.
Amniocentesis, however, reportedly results to miscarriage in one in a hundred cases. Statistically, that would mean around 350 fetal deaths annually, while some of these babies would have developed normally and born in a healthy state. In addition, some 1,000 mothers also contract serious infections from the invasive procedure.
The new test, known as the non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT), will also be offered to women who have a one in 150 chance of having a child with Patau's, Down's or Edwards' syndrome once approved for NHS, noted Mirror on Friday.
The NIPT method is based on the knowledge that fetal DNA circulates in the mother's blood, meaning some of the fetus' genetic profile may be assessed simply from the blood sample of the mother.
"The NIPT test offers expectant mothers greater accuracy in screening for Down's Syndrome with the use of a simple blood test," said Lyn Chitty, professor of genetics and fetal medicine at the UCL Institute of Child Health and Great Ormond Street Hospital and lead for the RAPID NIPT evaluation study.
"Introducing NIPT into NHS maternity care means that more women can be safely reassured about the health of their baby without having an invasive test which increases the risk of miscarriage," she added. "It also means that more woman and their partners will be given information that allows them to make choices about their pregnancy that are best for them."
Ministers have yet to give a green light on the new method recommended by the U.K. National Screening Committee, but many are crossing their fingers that tests could start soon.