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Breakthrough in pre-eclampsia test

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UK researchers have discovered a way of diagnosing pre-eclampsia, a condition which affects almost one in ten pregnancies and can be fatal.

The team from the University of Leeds found that the blood plasma of women with pre-eclampsia contained different levels of chemicals from the blood plasma of women without the condition.

At present, women are diagnosed with pre-eclampsia after 20 weeks gestation based on blood pressure checks and urine tests.

But the researchers hope that testing the blood for chemical changes - which they think may appear before the onset of symptoms such as high blood pressure and protein in the urine - could highlight women at risk from pre-eclampsia much earlier and lead to better management of the condition.

Jimmy Walker, professor of obstetrics at St James’s University Hospital in Leeds, said: ‘If an early prognostic tool was to become available, doctors and midwives could focus their attention and resources on caring for those more likely to develop the condition and instigate methods of prevention.’

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