Prenatal test offers alternative to amniocentesis

CALGARY- Calgary researchers are recruiting expectant moms as they evaluate a screening test touted as a less risky alternative to amniocentesis.

The test, known as non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT) assesses fetal DNA present in the mother’s blood. Studies have shown NIPT can be used to screen for chromosome disorders with about 99 per cent accuracy.

“We are one of the five centres across Canada participating in PEGASUS, a multicentred study evaluating this as an alternative to amniocentesis,” explains Dr. JoAnn Johnson, the principal investigator in the Calgary arm of the study.

About 10,000 Canadian women undergo amniocentesis each year as part of prenatal screening, with about 70 of those pregnancies being lost as a result of complications from the procedure.

Johnson says NITP would not put an unborn baby at risk because all that’s required is a sample of the mother’s blood.

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“It involves the evaluation of small fragments of DNA that are shed from the baby into the mother’s blood stream.”

Researchers plan to recruit approximately 5,000 women, including 900 from Calgary. The purpose of the project is to develop NIPT technology in Canada while determining the best way to integrate the test into Canadian public health care.

The cost of the new screening test is covered by the research study. Women interested in participating must be in their first trimester and considered low risk. For more information call 403-943-8382.


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