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Non-invasive screening for Down's Syndrome highlighted

Experts: Existing prenatal tests do not diagnose Down's Syndrome accurately

Gulf News

Dubai: Non-invasive pre-natal screening for Down's Syndrome, the most common chromosomal abnormality, is being recommended by experts in neo-natal and maternity care.

The encouragement comes from a medical seminar that took place on Thursday during which a non-invasive DNA blood test for Down's Syndrome was introduced. Experts said that if the foetus is accurately diagnosed with Down's Syndrome, the mother has enough time to prepare for a child with special needs or decide to terminate the pregnancy.

The test is pertinent to the UAE population in which the incidence of Down’s Syndrome (DS) is higher than the world average of 1 in every 800 births. Among Emiratis in Dubai it is 1 in every 320 births, according to data released by the Centre for Arab Genomic Studies (CAGS) in March.

In light of the availability of a non-invasive diagnostic screening product ‘Tri-gene’, which claims to test with high accuracy (99 per cent) and without risk of miscarriage, experts told Gulf News that this particular screening should be routine. However cost is a deterrent.

Dr Ajit Kanbur, Life Line Hospital, Jebel Ali, and speaker told Gulf News during the seminar on ‘Non Invasive Prenatal Diagnosis’ organised by Eastern Biotech & Life Sciences, that expecting women undergo two kinds of screening tests.

He said the screening begins with a non-invasive blood test and ultrasound to check if the foetus indicates chromosomal abnormality, and if positive, invasive diagnostic tests are carried out. The diagnostic tests do not offer 100 per cent accuracy and carry risk of miscarriage.

“A non-invasive test isn’t in everyone’s reach as it is not covered by insurance. It can cost up to Dh5,000 whereas the current tests start from Dh300. Existing invasive diagnostic tests — Chorionic villus sampling (CVS) and amniocentesis, which use samples from the developing placenta, are still only 75-90 per cent accurate with a risk of miscarriage,” he said.

Dr Amala Nazareeth, specialist gynaecologist and obstetrician and speaker told Gulf News, “Though anyone can have a baby with a chromosomal abnormality, the risk rises with the mother’s age. Screening is strongly advised for women over 35, those with a family history of Down's Syndrome, and previous pregnancies positive with Down's Syndrome.

Dr Sanjida Ahmad, director and organiser added that the non-invasive test is being introduced on the market for the first time.

The seminar was attended by gynaecologists, obstetricians, paediatricians and pathologists from the UAE and the GCC countries.