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Early preeclampsia diagnosis possible with a new blood test

Posted:  Monday, December 21, 2015

A novel blood test to diagnose preeclampsia early! Preeclampsia is a multisystem disorder that afflicts 2–5% of pregnant women. It is often diagnosed very late and can be fatal for both mother and baby when severe. Now an international study has come up with a new blood test that can detect preeclampsia early.

The study called PROGNOSIS looked at how the ratio of serum sFlt-1 to PlGF could help predict the onset of preeclampsia and its complications. sFlt-1 and PlGF are two proteins produced by the placenta and released into the blood circulation of a pregnant woman.

For the study, the researchers enrolled 1,273 pregnant women with suspected preeclampsia from 14 countries. They set out to find a cut-off value for the sFlt-1 to PlGF ratio, which enabled them to reliably exclude preeclampsia within a week, and predict its development and complications. They put the women through blood tests to ascertain the ratio.

Their efforts bore fruit. They found that a sFlt-1 to PlGF ratio of 38 or lower had a negative predictive value of nearly 100% for ruling out preeclampsia within a week. A value exceeding 38 was doubly useful. It had a positive predictive value of 36.7% for foretelling preeclampsia over the next four weeks. It also had a predictive value of 65.5% for foretelling complications in the mother or baby over the next four weeks.

Preeclampsia is typically characterised by high blood pressure and proteinuria. These symptoms are however inadequate to reliably predict the prognosis of the disorder. Moreover, preeclampsia has a variable clinical presentation which precludes a valid diagnosis. Thus, a blood test evaluating the sFlt-1 to PlGF ratio is valuable in this otherwise difficult setting.

Proclaiming the benefits of early preeclampsia diagnosis, the researchers said, “The ratio of serum sFlt-1 to PlGF can help us to better predict the risk of disease onset or its progression. This allows us to avoid preterm deliveries and delays in starting treatment. The main thing, however, is the fact that it is now possible to reliably rule out disease onset for one week; this will considerably reduce anxiety for the mother."

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