By Chioma Obinna

 To improve access to maternal and child care, EHA Clinics has launched IONA Care, a non-invasive prenatal test service for pregnant women.

The service estimates the risk of a fetus having Down’s syndrome (T21), Edwards’ syndrome (T18) and Patau’s Syndrome (T13) from as early as 10 weeks.

The IONA test is an advanced screening test carried out on a small blood sample taken from the mother’s arm with no risk of miscarriage.

A non-invasive prenatal test (NIPT) is an advanced screening test using DNA in the mother’s blood to estimate the risk of a fetus having Down’s syndrome, Edwards’ syndrome, and Patau’s syndrome.

Speaking on the launch, Chief Medical Officer, EHA Clinics, Dr Anthonia Hananiya, MD, FAAP, explained that traditional screening offered during the first trimester of pregnancy is currently called the Combined Test, an ultrasound scan to measure the nuchal translucency (NT), combined with a blood test. This is less accurate than NIPT, detecting about 85 per cent of babies with Down’s syndrome.

Hananiya said EHA Clinics focuses on providing technology-enabled primary and secondary healthcare services and programmes that target all segments of the population.

“We are excited to launch this innovative top-of-the-line service offering. The IONA® test provides a competitive high-quality offering due to the fast turnaround time, enabling some results to be turned around in as fast as 8 to 10 days.

“We are also open to partnerships with leading healthcare service providers in the nation. This will address the growing demand for access to affordable, high-quality healthcare in the country.”

She explained that during this launch period, EHA Clinics will run a series of webinars aimed at existing healthcare professionals on the IONA® Care test to educate them on the extended clinical offering which can be presented to pregnant mothers.

“In addition, we will be inviting new customers to join our webinars to learn more about how IONA® Care can give a competitive service for clinics and healthcare providers looking to expand their NIPT offering.”

Further, she added that the test has a higher detection rate than the Combined Test and also better able to exclude false positives.

“This is when the test reports the baby is at a high risk of having Down’s syndrome but is actually unaffected. The test is much better at ensuring the babies identified are truly high risk. This allows the doctor to only refer the mother for an invasive test when it is highly likely that the baby is affected by trisomy.

“This means fewer pregnant women will undergo unnecessary invasive follow-up procedures such as amniocentesis or CVS which can be stressful, painful, and may carry a small risk of miscarriage,” she explained.

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