A simple blood test for early detection of premature birth

By The University of Western Australia

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Predict Preterm Birth

Being pregnant can be one of the most exciting times in your life. And yet at the same time, the thought of it not going to plan, one the scariest. Each year, 15 million babies are born too soon, and 1 million will not survive. Preterm birth is the single greatest cause of death and disability for children aged less than 5 years.

Associate Professor Craig Pennell

Imagine though, if there was a simple blood test that could predict how long your pregnancy would last; if you are likely to go full term, or if you are more likely to deliver your baby early.

We are working to make this test a reality for every Australian family. In Australia alone, 26,000 babies are born too soon each year. This new test is the most accurate one to date and provides the earliest detection of premature birth, with an 86% accuracy in determining mothers at risk of early delivery.

Before we can bring this life changing test to women in Australia, the test needs to be validated in 3000 Australian women. You can help us succeed by donating to our project. We need to raise $200 to test each of the 3000 women.

Please donate and support our important research knowing that you will be making a difference to families and their precious new babies.

Currently ...

When we go to the doctor, we take it for granted that there will be a test to work out the best way for us to be cared for. Early in pregnancy, women have a number of tests to help them be in the best health to have a healthy, full length pregnancy. Currently there is no test to accurately predict who will have a full length pregnancy, and who is more likely to deliver too soon. We are working to develop a test that can be used early in pregnancy to predict the risk of delivering preterm. This will help women receive the best care and improve their chance of delivering at full term.

What is Preterm Birth?

Preterm birth is when a baby is born before 37 weeks of gestation. A full term pregnancy lasts for 40 weeks, and allows enough time for the baby to be fully developed at birth. When a baby is born too soon, it may require a lengthy hospital stay and have serious ongoing health problems.

Every year, 26,000 Australian families have an anxious wait while their preterm baby is cared for in special care nurseries and neonatal intensive care units.

How many babies are born too soon?

Preterm birth is a global health problem. Each year, 15 million babies are born too soon, and 1 million will not survive. Preterm birth is the single greatest cause of death and disability for children aged less than 5 years. In Australia, 26,000 babies are born too soon each year.

What have we learned so far?

Working with a multinational research team, we have found 6 genes that are expressed differently in women who will deliver preterm. These genes are either turned up (over expressed) or turned down (under expressed). When information about these genes is combined with some simple questions about the expectant mother’s health, our test becomes even better at predicting who will deliver preterm. The test is the most accurate one to date and provides the earliest detection of premature birth, with an 86% accuracy in determining mothers at risk of early delivery.

Associate Professor Craig Pennell is a maternal-fetal medicine specialist who cares for patients with very high risk pregnancies. As a clinical academic, he combines clinical work and scientific research to offer excellent care to women during pregnancy. Dr Pennell has worked with a team of researchers from Canada to develop this new test. He will lead this new research at The University of Western Australia to bring the test to Australian women.

How is our test different?

Our test is more accurate at identifying women who will deliver preterm. We are able to predict, with 86% accuracy, who will deliver too early.

Melanie White is a scientist working at The University of Western Australia, and Research Programme Manager of the Perinatal Genomics Research Team at UWA. She will oversee the smooth running research funded by your donation.

How will our test work?

How will our test work?

Our test will work using a simple blood test and information from the expectant mother. During early pregnancy, women already have a number of blood tests to make sure they have the best chance of a health pregnancy. Our test will be as easy to take as any other blood test.

How you can help us succeed

You can help us succeed by donating to our project. We need to raise $200 for each of the 3000 women to validate our test.

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