'Safer' Down's blood test could become available on the NHS

A trial at Great Ormond Street Hospital suggested it could be cost-effective. Credit: REUTERS/Joshua Lott

A blood test developed for Down's syndrome that reduces the risk of miscarriage could soon be made available on the NHS, researchers have said.

Currently, mothers of a foetus deemed to be at high risk of developing the condition undergo a test called amniocentesis - an invasive procedure that involves sticking a needle into the womb.

One in 100 women who have that test will miscarry after amniocentesis.

A trial at Great Ormond Street Hospital of non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT) suggested it could be cost-effective.

  • Around one in 1,000 babies born in the UK will have Down's syndrome

  • In the UK there are 60,000 people with the syndrome

  • The condition is caused by an extra chromosome present in a baby's cells

  • The average life expectancy for a person with Down's syndrome is 50-60

As part of the new procedure the mother undergoes a blood test, which can be done during her first trimester.

Doctors then test whether the baby's DNA is present in the mother's blood stream - a telltale sign of the syndrome.

Professor Lyn Chitty, who led the study, said: