Health

Researchers develop simple test to predict preeclampsia

A simple test may predict serious pregnancy condition, Preeclampsia. It is the most common medical condition during pregnancy, and it affects five to ten percent of pregnancies in Australia.

Number of pregnant women with high blood pressure has spiked in the last 40 years

Researchers develop a simple test to predict preeclampsia

Pre-eclampsia is a serious disorder of pregnancy characterised by high maternal blood pressure, protein in the urine and severe fluid retention. It is the most common serious medical complication of pregnancy, affecting around five to 10 per cent of all pregnancies in Australia. One to two percent of cases are severe enough to threaten the lives of both the mother and her unborn child.

A couple of years ago Melbourne researchers developed a blood test that they said may have been able to predict the onset of preeclampsia. Read more about it here.

Professor Shaun Brennecke, from the Royal Women’s Hospital, tested the blood proteins released from the placenta during pregnancy – and he said the results were promising.

Now Australian researchers have developed a way to predict the onset of the deadly pregnancy condition that kills 76,000 women and half a million babies each year, mostly in developing countries.

Researchers from Edith Cowan University in Perth Western Australia have developed a simple, low-cost way to predict preeclampsia. ECU researchers assessed the health status of 593 pregnant Ghanaian women using the Suboptimal Health Questionnaire.

The Suboptimal Health Questionnaire was developed in 2009 by Professor Wei Wang from ECU’s School of Health and Medical Sciences.

Combining scores for fatigue, heart health, digestion, immunity and mental health, the questionnaire provides an overall ‘suboptimal health score’ that can help predict chronic diseases.

Professor Wang’s PhD candidate Enoch Anto found that 61 per cent of women who scored high on the questionnaire went on to develop preeclampsia, compared with just 17 per cent of women who scored low.

When these results were combined with blood tests that measured women’s calcium and magnesium levels, the researchers were able to accurately predict the development of preeclampsia in almost 80 per cent of cases.

Mr Anto said preeclampsia was very treatable once identified, so providing an early warning could save thousands of lives.

“In developing nations, preeclampsia is a leading cause of death for both mothers and babies. In Ghana, it’s responsible for 18 per cent of maternal deaths,” Mr Anto said.

“But it can be treated using medication that lowers blood pressure once diagnosed.

He added, “Both blood tests for magnesium and calcium and the Suboptimal Health Questionnaire are inexpensive, making this ideally suited to the developing world where preeclampsia causes the most suffering.”

Read: Mum discovered ‘indigestion’ was a rare form of pre-eclampsia

In another study Australian researchers discovered a common reflux drug could hold the key to treating pre-eclampsia.

The international study, led by the Translational Obstetrics Group (TOG) based at Victoria’s Mercy Hospital for Women, stumbled upon the reflux medication breakthrough.

“We were astonished to find these common drugs switch off the production of toxins from the preeclamptic placenta and protect blood vessels from further injury,” senior study author Dr Natalie Hannan said.

“If proton pump inhibitors can reduce the burden of preeclampsia, it could save the lives of thousands of mothers and babies globally,” Prof Tong said.

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Tracy Hardy

Tracy has been a digital content producer for the past 9 years. Mum of two boys, slowly finding her way through the tween and teen years at the same time. Beach lover. Terrible housekeeper. Tea drinker. Wine sipper, who sadly can't eat cheese or ice cream. Life is cruel!