New test for Down Syndrome by mail
A new test for Down Syndrome has been described as a "major turning point in antenatal screening" that would also be far cheaper than current screening programmes.
Pregnant women can currently have a blood test to see if their unborn child is likely to have the condition, but British company MAP Diagnostics has developed a test that analyses their urine instead.
The test, which checks for proteins present in a microscopic sample, has been found to have a greater than 90pc detection rate and can be used from eight weeks into the pregnancy.
The company estimates it could still save millions of pounds for health services each year due to the reduced need for appointments for blood taking, scans and presenting results, along with the relatively affordable equipment required to run the screening.
Chief operating officer Professor Ray Iles said the screening method could be used in countries where women have less access to hospitals as they could send off their urine sample in the post.
"The beauty of this test is it's easy, the sample is non-invasive, it's very fast, it has a good detection rate and it's affordable," he said.
He said the test, which he described as the "result of a lifetime's work", was far more affordable than non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT).