London: Scientists have developed a simple blood test which could help doctors detect Down`s syndrome in unborn babies, a breakthrough experts say could become highly
controversial as it could lead to an increase in abortions.
Down`s syndrome is a genetic disorder that affects a baby`s normal physical development and causes mild to moderate learning difficulties. It develops when a baby is still in the
womb, and about 15 per cent of children with the condition die during the first year, usually from a complication that arises from congenital heart disease.
Researchers at San Diego-based health care firm Sequenom who developed the simple blood test said it could accurately detect if the baby in the womb has the condition.
The test is now available in 20 cities in America, the Daily Mail reported.
The current screening methods for Down`s syndrome -- amniocentesis and chorionic villus sampling (CVS) -- carry an risk of inducing a miscarriage. As a result of this only about two per cent of pregnant women in America undergo the screening.
The new test is likely to prove highly controversial as the number of women carrying babies with Down`s syndrome who terminate their pregnancies could massively increase.
According to experts, about 92 per cent of mothers who are told that the child they are carrying has Down`s syndrome choose to abort, and the new test would increase the number.
"It`s a real conundrum," said Paul Root Wolpe, director of the center for ethics at Emory University.
Wolpe said: "Human beings have always tried to fight and cure disease, and this tool, projecting it forward 50 years when it`s powerful enough, will make a difference in eliminating those diseases in the world. It`s a tough call."