Test may warn of pregnancy complication
BOSTON, Massachusetts (Reuters) --A test that looks for two proteins in the blood of pregnant women may herald the onset of preeclampsia, a serious complication that affects as many as one in 20 pregnancies in the United States, researchers said on Thursday.
Preeclampsia appears as a rise in blood pressure that can become deadly, and doctors have long sought a way to treat it or predict which women will develop the condition.
In the mother, preeclampsia can lead to seizures, kidney failure or stroke. It slows the growth of the fetus, can force the baby to emerge prematurely or kill the child.
The researchers behind the new test, led by Richard Levine of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development in Bethesda, Maryland, said a premature rise in the level of one chemical, known as soluble fms-like tyrosine kinase 1, and an early fall in the level of another, placental growth factor, often came five weeks before any symptoms appeared.
However, the test on 240 women was not perfect. The same telltale chemical profile was not seen in all the women who developed preeclampsia, and some women who fit the profile never developed the problem.
In an editorial in the New England Journal of Medicine, where the study will be published next week, Caren Solomon and Ellen Seely of Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston said the new findings suggest that other, as-yet undiscovered factors probably have a more direct link to preeclampsia.
Doctors have proposed other tests to predict preeclampsia in the past, but these have ultimately turned out to be flawed.
The latest results were presented on Thursday at the annual meeting of the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine in New Orleans.
Copyright 2004 Reuters.
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