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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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Diabetes drug might ease heart failure risk

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A new research has showed that the diabetes drug Farxiga might do double-duty for patients, helping to ward off another killer, heart failure.

According to the findings were published in the New England Journal of Medicine to coincide with their presentation at the annual meeting of the American Heart Association in Chicago, Type 2 diabetics who took Farxiga saw their odds of hospitalization for heart failure drop by 27 percent compared to those who took a placebo.

Farxiga is a type of drug called a SGLT2 inhibitor. The compound is called dapagliflozin.

The study included more than 17,000 type 2 diabetes patients aged 40 and older. Nearly 7,000 had heart disease and more than 10,000 had numerous risk factors for heart disease, Wiviott’s group said.

Patients were randomly assigned to take a dummy placebo pill or 10 milligrams of Farxiga each day.

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“When it comes to helping our patients control and manage blood glucose, the ‘how’ appears to be as important [as] the ‘how much,” said study author Dr Stephen Wiviott, a cardiovascular medicine specialist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

“When choosing a therapy, trial results like these can help us make an informed decision about what treatments are not only safe and effective for lowering blood glucose but can also reduce risk of heart and kidney complications,” Wiviott said in a hospital news release.

Taking the drug did not reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke and cardiovascular-related death, the research team noted. However, patients who took the drug did see healthy declines in their blood sugar levels, plus an added bonus: a 27 percent decrease in their risk of hospitalization for heart failure.

Their risk of kidney failure and death from kidney failure also fell, researchers noted.

Two other recent studies of this class of drugs show that they “robustly and consistently improve heart and kidney outcomes in a broad population of patients with diabetes,” Wiviott noted.

With Inputs from HealthDay

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