Preeclampsia is a dangerous condition that is difficult to predict. Researchers at Metabolomic hope their new test can increase detection rates and save lives.

Researchers from medtech Metabolomic Diagnostics, in collaboration with King’s College Hospital London, have published research which shows a 15pc increase in detection of preterm preeclampsia by using a new diagnostic method.

By screening for certain metabolites that the researchers found to be associated with preterm preeclampsia as well as screening for the most well-known biomarkers for the condition, the team found that detection rates improved significantly.

Preeclampsia is a serious condition that is estimated to affect 5 to 7pc of all pregnancies. Globally, it causes more than 70,000 maternal deaths and 500,000 foetal deaths every year.

It is not fully understood what causes the condition, but it is thought to relate to how the placenta develops. The placenta is the organ that links the women’s blood supply to the foetus and through which oxygen and food passes.

In preeclampsia, the placenta doesn’t get enough blood, leading to serious complications for both the woman and the foetus.

Earlier this year, Prof Patricia Maguire, director of University College Dublin’s Institute for Discovery, spoke to about the condition. “Preeclampsia is devastating. It affects the smallest and most vulnerable members of society, their whole families and communities,” she said.

Maguire leads the award-winning AI Premie team that is developing a preeclampsia test using biomedical, clinical and machine learning techniques.

One of the complications with preeclampsia is that it affects women of different races differently, with black women most at risk. Other risk factors include first-time pregnancy, history of hypertension or chronic kidney disease, diabetes and a body mass index that indicates obesity.

The team at Metabolomic included some of these other risk factors in their study to show that “risk screening can be personalised”.

“Patients with different body mass indexes and from different races express different biomarker levels, allowing for improvement of the detection rates,” Metabolomic said in a statement.

Metabolomic is based in Little Island, Co Cork. According to its website, it specialises in developing “novel biomarker-based diagnostic solutions for complex diseases”.

The CEO of the company Dr Robin Tuytten said: “Our goal is to improve health equity by facilitating patient access to screening, acknowledging that every pregnant patient is different and achieving better pregnancy outcomes for all families”.

Based on their findings, Metabolomic is developing a simple blood test which they say can easily become a part of prenatal medical assessment.

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