Simple Test Can Predict, Diagnose Preeclampsia
The lives of tens of thousands of women and infants could be saved if preeclampsia and a related condition, eclampsia, were identified early. Now researchers at Yale School of Medicine have developed a simple urine test that can quickly predict and diagnose preeclampsia.
The new test, named the “Congo Red Dot Test” by the Yale team, accurately predicted preeclampsia in a study of 347 pregnant women. Preeclampsia is a potentially deadly complication of pregnancy. The Preeclampsia Foundation notes that preeclampsia affects 5 to 8 percent of all pregnancies, and the World Health Organization estimates that about 63,000 pregnant women die each year due to the condition or a related one called eclampsia.
Early detection of preeclampsia is important because it allows healthcare professionals to immediately initiate preventive care. This is important for pregnant women everywhere, but especially for those who live in developing or remote areas who do not have easy access to medical services. Such women who test positive for the preeclampsia test can be transported to medical facilities where they can receive specialized care, including administration of magnesium sulfate, which temporarily stabilizes the condition.
Currently magnesium sulfate is underutilized in developing regions because until now there has not been a low-cost, effective way to identify preeclampsia. Irina Buhimschi, MD, associate professor in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Sciences at Yale School of Medicine, notes that the new urine test could fill this need and also identify women who need to immediately deliver their babies, because delivery is the only effective treatment for preeclampsia.
Preeclampsia, also known as pregnancy-induced hypertension or toxemia, is a disorder that occurs only during pregnancy and the postpartum period. It is a rapidly progressive condition characterized by high blood pressure and protein in the urine. Symptoms include sudden weight gain, headache, changes in vision, and swelling, although some women have few symptoms. Preeclampsia typically presents after 20 weeks gestation but can occur earlier. The Preeclampsia Foundation notes that preeclampsia and other hypertensive disorders of pregnancy are responsible for an estimated 500,000 infant deaths each year.
Use of this simple urine test to predict and diagnose preeclampsia may prove to be a life-saver for many pregnant women. The study’s authors also found that the Congo Red Dot Test could be used as a marker for assessing misfolded proteins, a factor seen not only in preeclampsia but also in other disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease.
Yale School of Medicine