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Easy test leads to hard questions

Boy or girl? A simple blood test in mothers-to-be can answer that question with 95 percent accuracy at about seven weeks, a research analysis has found.

Genetics researchers analyzed 57 published studies of gender testing. The results suggest blood tests like those studied could be a breakthrough for women at risk of having babies with certain diseases.

But the study raises concerns about couples using such tests for gender selection and abortion, and study authors suggest that customers should be questioned about how they plan to use the results.

The new analysis, published in today's Journal of the American Medical Association, involved more than 6,000 pregnancies.

In India, research suggests that a ban on such gender testing has been ineffective. And China's limit of one child per couple has contributed to an increasing gender imbalance there.

Data are skimpy on reasons for U.S. abortions or whether gender preferences or gender-detection methods play a role.

Consumer Genetics Inc. a Santa Clara, Calif.-based company sells an "early gender" blood test called "Pink or Blue" online for $25 plus $265 or more for laboratory testing. It claims 95 percent accuracy, using a technique developed from the type of testing evaluated in the new analysis, said Terry Carmichael, the company's executive vice president.

Carmichael said the company won't test blood samples unless women sign a consent form agreeing not to use the results for gender selection, and won't sell kits to customers in China or India because of fears of gender selection, he said.

Easy test leads to hard questions 08/09/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 9, 2011 9:26pm]
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