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Blood test for pregnant women might predict preterm birth

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Researchers have developed a blood test that can predict a pregnant woman’s risk of premature delivery with up to 80 percent accuracy.

Developed by a team of scientists led by researchers at Stanford University, the tests could help reduce problems related to premature birth, which affects 15 million infants worldwide each year.

The blood tests are described in a paper that published online June 7 in Science.

The technique can also be used to estimate a fetus’s gestational age—or the mother’s due date—as reliably as and less expensively than ultrasound.

The test is not ready for prime time, stressed senior researcher Stephen Quake,PhD, a professor at Stanford University in California. It still has to be validated in larger studies of more diverse groups of women, he said.

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Quake shares senior authorship with Mads Melbye, MD, visiting professor of medicine. The lead authors are former Stanford postdoctoral scholar Thuy Ngo, PhD, and Stanford graduate student Mira Moufarrej.

Quake’s team found that, in women at increased risk of premature delivery, the blood test predicted premature labor with 75 to 80 percent accuracy. According to Quake, that level of accuracy is good enough to be used in routine practice — but more work is needed to see whether that performance holds up in larger studies.

Until now, doctors have lacked a reliable way to predict whether pregnancies will end prematurely, and have struggled to accurately predict delivery dates for all types of pregnancies, especially in low-resource settings.

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Single blood test might be enough to diagnose diabetes

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A new study report has suggested that it may be possible to diagnose type 2 diabetes by measuring fasting blood glucose and hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) using the same blood sample without requiring a patient to come back for a second visit and saving patients time and health care cost.

The findings, from the prospective Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study, were published online June 19 in Annals of Internal Medicine by Elizabeth Selvin, PhD, of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland, and colleagues.

Until now, it’s recommended that a blood test focused on elevated fasting levels of blood sugar (glucose) or a blood component called glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c) be confirmed with a second blood test at a follow-up visit which takes time and money and could still result in missed diagnoses, said a team from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore.

In the new study, researchers led by Hopkins epidemiologist Elizabeth Selvin looked at data on more than 13,000 people in a long-running US heart disease study. The study began in the 1980s, and along the way has recorded valuable data from participants, including diabetes test data.

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The team analyzed that data, and reported that a positive result for glucose and HbA1c from just a single blood sample can confirm type 2 diabetes.

” This could change care potentially allowing a major simplification of current clinical practice guidelines,” Selvin said in a university news release.

“Doctors are already doing these [glucose and HbA1c] tests together — if a patient is obese, for example, and has other risk factors for diabetes, the physician is likely to order tests for both glucose and HbA1c from a single blood sample.

“It’s just that the guidelines don’t clearly let you use the tests from that one blood sample to make the initial diabetes diagnosis,” she explained.

“I’m hoping that these results will lead to a change in the clinical guidelines when they are revised in early 2019, which could make identifying diabetes a lot more efficient in many cases,” Selvin said.

Diabetes experts welcomed the findings.

With Agency Inputs

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