The future of obstetrics: New inexpensive, non-invasive test for pre-eclampsia scoops innovation award

Morgan Innovation and Technology wins IET Innovation Award

An innovative new low-cost test for potentially-deadly pre-eclampsia has picked up the Healthcare Technologies title at the 2015 IET Awards.

Pre-eclampsia is a pregnancy condition that affects around 8% of pregnant women, causing them to suffer from fluid retention and pain. If untreated, it can cause severe sickness, and sometimes death, for both mother and baby, so an early diagnosis is crucial.

There is currently only one way of testing for pre-eclampsia – with a needle. This can be costly, with lab time taken into account, and also painful for the expectant mother. However, Morgan Innovation and Technology has come up with an ingenious new solution – a salivary test.

Simple, cost-effective and needle-free, Salurate is a simple, easy-to-use, inexpensive and painless test measuring the uric acid levels in maternal saliva to indicate pre-eclampsia. The idea is that the technology will eventually develop into a non-invasive home test kit.

The current test for pre-eclampsia, used by the NHS and other health service providers, analyses a combination of high blood pressure (hypertension) with a urine test for any protein. However, these tests are of limited value to low specificity (70%) and low sensitivity (60%). Blood tests do also exist to determine liver and kidney function, levels of platelets in blood, and levels of placental growth factor (PlGF). But tests such as these cost around £65 per case and only reliably diagnose early onset pre-eclampsia – which constitutes just 12% of all cases.

The difference with Salurate is that by testing saliva instead of blood, the use of needles and trained medical professionals to carry out the procedure and lab testing is not necessary – significantly reducing both time and cost.

In early-stage clinical trials of 137 pregnancies Salurate showed early indication of pre-eclampsia with better sensitivity and specificity compared to the traditional needle-based hypertension and protein tests currently used to detect it. So far, the second trial of 1,000 pregnancies is in its concluding stages with early results supporting the initial study. A final trial is planned with 15,000 pregnant women, anticipated to mirror initial results from both the quantitative and qualitative results so far.

The eventual aim is to freely distribute the Salurate devices through the NHS, allowing pregnant women to test themselves in the comfort of their own home with a sample of saliva. The device will then automatically and securely send the readings to a cloud-based processing centre in the form of a telehealth service to the NHS clinicians looking after the pregnant woman.

Commenting on the award, which was presented at a ceremony in central London, Howard Clarke, chairman of Morgan Innovation and Technology, said: “Through our technological innovation, we have found a way to help reduce the threat to pregnant women through early detection.

“With plans to commercialise salurate for home testing by 2018, we are making a contribution to the future of obstetrics. This award – and the recognition it brings – is a real honour.”

Click here for full details of all the award winners.

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