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Experts stress prenatal screening for Down syndrome

NO more than half of Shanghai's pregnant women receive screening for Down syndrome while the nation's average testing rate is less than 20 percent, medical experts said at a conference on prenatal screening tests. By comparison, about 65 to 70 percent of pregnant women in Europe receive Down syndrome screening test, mostly in the early stage of pregnancy, said Wong Fatt Heng from Roche Diagnostics Shanghai. Wong said that more than 90 percent of fetuses with Down syndrome can be detected through a combined test in the early and middle stage of pregnancy. Non-invasive tests through B ultrasound scan and blood test are used in the screening with no harm to mothers and their babies, doctors said. Down syndrome is a chromosomal condition characterized by the presence of an extra copy of genetic material on the 21st chromosome. The incidence of Down syndrome is about at 1 per 700 births. So far there is no treatment. Diagnostic screening and early intervention are the only solution to the disease, which is associated with some impairment of cognitive ability and physical growth and a particular set of facial characteristics. "Although it is statistically more common with older parents, especially the mothers, Down syndrome occurs in all populations," said Dr Duan Tao, president of Shanghai No. 1 Maternity and Pediatric Hospital. "The screening shouldn't be neglected and should be done during early pregnancy, leaving more time for clinical and family decision makers." Over 1 million children are born with congenital deformity in China, including 26,000 children with Down syndrome.

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