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Non-Invasive Fetal Screening Faster, Safer Than Amniocentesis

Credit: ciccioetneo

A pregnant woman holds her stomach in this undated photograph. A UCSD study finds fetal DNA screening for genetic abnormalities is faster, safer, and just as accurate as amniocentesis.

Audio

Aired 5/9/14

The standard test for screening fetuses for genetic abnormalities, amniocentesis, involves sticking a needle through the mother's abdomen and into the uterus.

The standard test for screening fetuses for genetic abnormalities, amniocentesis, involves sticking a needle through the mother's abdomen and into the uterus. It causes a miscarriage in about one in 200 women.

A new UC San Diego study compared amniocentesis with a method that screens fetal DNA obtained from the mother’s blood.

Dr. Kang Zhang, founding director of UCSD's Institute for Genomic Medicine, led the study. It involved more than 2,000 women in China.

Zhang said the high-tech method proved to be just as accurate but was non-invasive. What’s more, he said, fetal DNA screening can be done as early as nine weeks into a pregnancy.

“It’s preferable that we can diagnose chromosome abnormalities such as Down’s syndrome as early as we can. It allows the family and the mom to make a decision,” Zhang explained.

About one in 160 babies in the United States are born with a genetic disorder. In China, the rate is one in 60 births.

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