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First birth using PGD to save baby from rhesus blood disease

Australian researchers (Thursday 20 January) announced that they have used pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) to avoid a couple having a baby suffering from rhesus factor[1] disease the potentially fatal condition caused by incompatibility between a baby's blood and that of its mother.

Their pioneering work resulted in the birth of a healthy baby girl in November 2003 to a couple who had previously had one child severely affected by Rh disease.

Writing in Europe's leading reproductive medicine journal Human Reproduction[2], the research team from the Royal North Shore Hospital and Sydney IVF, state that this is the first reported case of an unaffected pregnancy using PGD to prevent Rh disease.

In Caucasian populations about 17% of pregnant women are RhD negative (RhD-). Of these, around 60% will have a baby who has inherited RhD positive (RhD+) blood from its father. During the first pregnancy, the mother recognises the baby's blood as 'foreign' and may develop antibodies against it usually at delivery. This is called alloimmunization. It doesn't harm the baby, but it puts future pregnancies involving an RhD+ baby at risk because the antibodies the mother made during her first pregnancy may cross the placenta to her unborn child. The result can be haemolytic disease of the fetus or newborn, which, in extreme cases, causes severe anaemia in the fetus, stillbirth or the death of the baby shortly after birth.

Between one and two in a hundred RhD negative women are at risk of alloimmunization during or immediately after a pregnancy. Over the past 35 years this figure has been cut to about 0.2% by the use of anti-D injections administered in the 28th and 34th week of pregnancy.

However, according to lead researcher Dr Sean Seeho, this still results in a significant number of babies in Australia[3] being affected by RhD alloimmunization because there are around 25,000 RhD+ babies born to about 45,000 RhD- mothers annu
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Contact: Margaret Willson
m.willson@mwcommunications.org.uk
44-1-536-772-181
European Society for Human Reproduction and Embryology
19-Jan-2005


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