Researchers develop early warning system for pre-eclampsia

Thursday, 24 October, 2019

Researchers develop early warning system for pre-eclampsia

Researchers at Edith Cowan University (ECU) in Western Australia have developed a simple, low-cost test for predicting pre-eclampsia, with results published in The EPMA Journal.

Pre-eclampsia — a potentially deadly condition that affects pregnant women — is one of the leading causes of maternal–foetal mortality worldwide, responsible for the death of 76,000 mothers and 500,000 babies each year, primarily in the developing world. The condition can cause devastating complications for women and babies, including brain and liver injury in mothers and premature birth.

During their investigations, ECU researchers assessed the health status of 593 pregnant Ghanaian women using the Suboptimal Health Questionnaire, developed in 2009 by Professor Wei Wang from ECU’s School of Health and Medical Sciences. The questionnaire combines scores for fatigue, heart health, digestion, immunity and mental health, providing an overall ‘suboptimal health score’ that can help predict chronic diseases.

Prof Wang’s PhD candidate, Enoch Anto, found that 61% of women with a high score on the questionnaire went on to develop pre-eclampsia, compared with just 17% with a low score.

When these results were combined with blood tests measuring the women’s calcium and magnesium levels, the researchers were able to accurately predict the development of pre-eclampsia in almost 80% of cases.

Anto said pre-eclampsia was very treatable once identified, so providing an early warning could save thousands of lives.

“In developing nations, pre-eclampsia is a leading cause of death for both mothers and babies,” Anto said.

“In Ghana, it’s responsible for 18% of maternal deaths, but it can be treated using medication that lowers blood pressure once diagnosed.

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

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