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Last Updated: Sunday, 6 May 2007, 23:01 GMT 00:01 UK
Home spit test for pre-eclampsia
Pre-eclampsia can be symptomless
A UK hospital is testing a home spit kit designed to help mums-to-be spot if they are at risk of pre-eclampsia.

One thousand women in Chichester will try the test that reads saliva for tell-tale markers of impending kidney problems linked with the condition.

It is expected to be more reliable than traditional blood pressure and urine checks, the Chemistry & Industry magazine reports.

Pre-eclampsia can be symptomless and kills up to 1,000 UK babies every year.

Spit test

Up to one in 10 pregnant women can get pre-eclampsia, with one in 50 suffering severe problems.

Globally, one woman dies every six minutes from the condition, according to Action on Pre-eclampsia.

Pre-eclampsia, caused by a defect in the placenta, which supplies nutrients and oxygen to the foetus, happens towards the end of pregnancy and causes high blood pressure and kidney problems.

The saliva test is a very useful add on. It is so simple, quick and cheap
Brian Owen-Smith, test inventor

There is no cure, other than delivery of the baby and removal of the placenta.

Prompt detection and intervention can save lives.

In preliminary trials, a prototype of the saliva test accurately identified women with pre-eclampsia.

Results from the St Richard's Hospital trial are expected early next year.

The ultimate aim is to develop a colour-coded "traffic light" detection kit for expectant mothers to use at home.

For example, a red reading would indicate high levels of urate in the saliva which may mean pre-eclampsia.

The woman should then have further checks with her hospital or GP to see if she is at risk.

Second check

Developer Brian Owen-Smith, a retired rheumatologist from St Richard's, envisages his test would add to rather than replace existing pre-eclampsia checks.

He explained: "Blood pressure and urine tests are not always reliable. Not all pregnant women with high blood pressure will have pre-eclampsia.

"And a positive urine test might be down to an infection rather than pre-eclampsia.

"The saliva test is a very useful add on. It is so simple, quick and cheap."

He hopes the test will become commercially available in the near future.

Michael Rich of Action on Pre-eclampsia said: "This could be a potentially great complementary test. We look forward to seeing the results of the trial."

Pre-eclampsia breakthrough hope
07 Sep 06 |  Health

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