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A simple, non-invasive blood test could soon be available to detect a range of conditions, including Down’s syndrome, in early pregnancy.

Researchers, led by Dr Suzanna Frints at Maastricht University Medical Centre in the Netherlands, claim that the test will be much safer than amniocentesis, which is currently used for early detection of the syndrome and can increase the risk of miscarriage. It is hoped that the test, which can also be used to screen for muscular dystrophy and haemophilia, will be made available on a large scale in the next five years at a fraction of the price of amniocentesis.

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