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This could be the best way to screen dangerous pregnancy complications

Researchers recruited 112 women to study pregnancy complications.

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pregnancy, medicine, healthcare and people concept - gynecologist doctor with laptop computer and pregnant african american woman meeting at hospital
(Ground Picture via Shutterstock)

By Pol Allingham via SWNS

A quick blood test could be the best way of screening for potentially deadly pregnancy complications, according to new research.

Common conditions such as preeclampsia and gestational diabetes, as well as a liver condition called intrahepatic cholestasis, could be spotted by the new test from Ningbo University, China.

The team found changes in the gut could indicate any of the three pregnancy complications.

Early diagnosis and treatment are key to preventing all three from having life-long consequences or killing the mother or child.

Preeclampsia affects up to seven percent of pregnancies and kills over 500,000 fetuses worldwide every year, and is characterized by high blood pressure.

Gestational diabetes affects up to 10 percent and puts babies at risk of type 2 diabetes, and serious liver disease intrahepatic cholestasis carries an almost seven percent increase in perinatal death.

Their causes are not yet fully understood.

Neither is their connection to the gut microbiome, which is affected by pregnancy conditions

The team recruited 112 women to find out whether changes in levels of short-chain fatty acids, known as metabolites, could be a sign of pregnancy complications.

Explaining the study Dr. Rongrong Xuan, senior author, said: “We analyzed and correlated the distribution of short-chain fatty acids during normal pregnancy and during three specific types of complicated pregnancy, gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia, and intrahepatic cholestasis.

“The metabolic products of intestinal flora, short-chain fatty acids, during pregnancy are closely related to these pregnancy complications.

“They can be used as potential markers of pregnancy complications.

“We used targeted metabolomics to carry out an analysis of serum short-chain fatty acids of pregnant women with gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia, and intrahepatic cholestasis, and matched healthy control women.

“This is the first retrospective study that links short-chain fatty acids to the risks of three types of pregnancy complications.

“It lays a foundation for the prevention of pregnancy-related diseases in the future.”

pregnancy, gynecology, medicine, health care and people concept - close up of gynecologist doctor showing ultrasound image on clipboard to pregnant woman at hospital
A quick blood test could be the best way of screening for potentially deadly pregnancy complications. (Ground Picture via Shutterstock)

The cohort was divided into four groups - those who had healthy pregnancies, those diagnosed with preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, or intrahepatic cholestasis.

Medical histories were taken from each, and blood samples were analyzed for levels of seven short-chain fatty acids: Acetic, propionic, butyric, isobutyric, isovaleric, and hexanoic acid.

Several strong biomarkers emerged among the short-chain fatty acids, particularly isobutyric acid - present in all three groups who experienced the complications.

Those with gestational diabetes and preeclampsia had high levels of isovaleric, acetic and propionic acid too.

Writing in Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology, they suggested the latter two could be due to dyslipidemia, an imbalance of lipids in the blood.

Meanwhile, women diagnosed with intrahepatic cholestasis had far lower levels of every short-chain fatty acid, bar isobutyric.

Their levels of hexanoic acid clearly matched up with their illness too.

As a result, the scientists argued lower levels of short-chain fatty acids in intrahepatic cholestasis patients could be due to a lack of flora living in the gut biome, and hexanoic acid could be linked to related inflammation.

The research needs to be expanded and tested for clinical use, but the authors will pursue the link between short-chain fatty acids and the microbiome of mother and fetus, including lifestyle effects.

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