Doctors tell sex of foetus at five weeks

(First Edition)

DOCTORS in London have succeeded in telling the sex of a baby at less than five weeks after conception by testing the mother's blood.

Their discovery is a first step towards non-invasive testing that could pick up abnormalities in the foetus at a very early stage.

Diagnostic tests for foetal abnormalities such as Down's syndrome are invasive and carry a risk of miscarriage. Identifying and analysing foetal cells from the mother's blood carries no such risk.

While the researchers from St Mary's Hospital, Paddington, University College Hospitals and the London Fertility Clinic say the research is at a very early stage, a blood test would help couples decide if they wanted to terminate a pregnancy within one or two weeks of a first missed period.

The researchers, whose findings are disclosed in a letter in tomorrow's Lancet, were able to identify the sex correctly in two male foetuses and three female by looking for specific DNA sequences, or genetic patterns, from Y, or male, chromosomes. The absence of these sequences indicates the absence of the male chromosomes, showing the foetus was female.

They knew the dates of the conceptions accurately since the women who gave a blood sample were having in vitro fertilisation.

Dr Margot Thomas, of St Mary's Hospital Medical School, who took the blood samples, said yesterday: 'If these (foetal) cells can be purified they could be analysed for DNA mutations in such cases as cystic fibrosis or other diseases where there is a family history. They could be analysed for chromosome errors as in Down's syndrome, very early in pregnancy.'

The researchers believe that the early foetal cells belong to the developing placenta.

Amniocentesis to find abnormalities is carried out at about 16 weeks of the pregnancy and carries a one in 100 or 200 risk of miscarriage. Chorionic villus sampling (CVS), carried out at about 11 weeks, has about double that risk.

The Government has issued a warning following the deaths of two children that people taking corticosteroid drugs who catch chickenpox should seek urgent medical help.

About 30 people a year die of complications arising from chickenpox, one-third of them because their immune system is impaired. The steroid drugs suppress the immune system and the Medicines Control Agency has now ruled that the drugs taken by mouth or injection 'substantially increase the risk of severe chickenpox'.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Clinical Lead / RGN

£40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: IT Sales Consultant

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...

Recruitment Genius: Works Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Hire Manager - Tool Hire

£21000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is seeking someone w...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent
Markus Persson: If being that rich is so bad, why not just give it all away?

That's a bit rich

The billionaire inventor of computer game Minecraft says he is bored, lonely and isolated by his vast wealth. If it’s that bad, says Simon Kelner, why not just give it all away?
Euro 2016: Chris Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Wales last qualified for major tournament in 1958 but after several near misses the current crop can book place at Euro 2016 and end all the indifference
Rugby World Cup 2015: The tournament's forgotten XV

Forgotten XV of the rugby World Cup

Now the squads are out, Chris Hewett picks a side of stars who missed the cut
A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

Britain's Atlantis

Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

David Starkey's assessment
Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

'An enormous privilege and adventure'

Oliver Sacks writing about his life
'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'
Britain is still addicted to 'dirty coal'

Britain still addicted to 'dirty' coal

Biggest energy suppliers are more dependent on fossil fuel than a decade ago