Friday, November 11, 2011

New Test for Down Syndrome

There’s a new test for the detection of Down syndrome in fetuses. The new test examines fetal DNA using only a sample of maternal blood, making it much less risky than the current best methods, amniocentesis or chorionic villus sampling. The test accurately detects over 98% of Down syndrome cases, with a false positive – incorrectly identifying normal fetuses as having Down syndrome – of only 0.2%, according to results published this month.

The test is effective as early as 10 weeks of pregnancy. That’s early enough for parents to confirm positive blood test results with amniocentesis or chorionic villus sampling if necessary, and then make the decision to have an elective abortion if they choose. Not everyone is happy with that. Advocates for Down syndrome patients worry that the number of Down syndrome children could decline. And that might lead (they say) to reduced research and support for Down syndrome patients.

But wouldn’t fewer people with Down syndrome be a good thing? You decide.

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