A biomarker is a molecule that can be found in the blood, any tissue or other body fluid. Biomarkers can be measured to work out whether someone has a specific disease or condition and to measure their responses to treatment. They can be used alone or together with other biomarkers or tests.
At the moment, most early pregnancy complications are diagnosed using ultrasound only. This means quality of the diagnosis often depends on the skill of the ultrasound operator. Ideally, a biomarker will accurately diagnose complications in early pregnancy consistently, and help to identify those women who need to be treated urgently and monitored more closely. This would make it easier for the woman and her family by reducing the uncertainty they face when waiting for a diagnosis.
This Scientific Impact Paper discusses the use of biomarkers in identifying and caring for women with complications in early pregnancy. A lot of research has been carried out in the past 10 years to find new biomarkers that can do this reliably. However, so far none of these have been shown to be reliable enough by themselves to remove the need to rely on other ways of diagnosing, such as ultrasound. More research is needed before biomarkers can be used effectively and independently in a hospital or clinic.
Declaration of interests (guideline developers)
Dr M Memtsa MRCOG, London: None declared.
Mr D Jurkovic FRCOG, London: None declared.
Professor ERM Jauniaux FRCOG, London: Professor Jauniaux is co-founder and trustee of Medical Aid Films [MAF] a UK-registered charity, and co-founder of Sonic Womb, a non-profit research organisation.