Andrew Pollack reports in The New York Times this week on a new kind of genetic testing that can reveal more abnormalities than the standard tests done to examine fetuses during pregnancy.
The test uses a gene chip to scan for a wide variety of potential problems, he reports, but "it is not always possible to tell whether a small abnormality detected by the chip will be harmful to a child, or if so, how severe such a problem will be." It's a solid story, and nobody else seems to have written it (with one exception; more about that in a minute). This appears to be a scoop by the Times.
But it isn't. Pollack reports that the findings, which he says have not yet been published, were presented in February at a meeting of the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine. New York-Presbyterian Hospital, where the principal investigator works, put out a press release in connection with the meeting, on Feb. 9, and it was picked up by ScienceDaily, and perhaps others at the time.
And while Pollack reports that the findings have not yet been published, the press release says they appeared "recently"--sometime before February, presumably--in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
It's unclear, however, whether the press release got it right either. The "publication" it is referring to seems to be this one, but this is only an abstract published in connection with the maternal-fetal medicine conference. Published abstracts, such as this one, are not usually considered publications in the same way that the published results of a clinical trial would be.
The one additional story I found this week comes from The New York Post, which reports in a brief blog post that the new test is "better than amniocentesis."
Um, sorry. Conventional testing and the new gene chip both rely on amniocentesis, or other techniques, to obtain fetal cells for testing. The Post also reports that "the new test itself can cause miscarriage." This is not only wrong, but needlessly frightening. Amniocentesis has a very low risk of miscarriage, but a gene chip poses no more risk to a pregnancy than the saxophone Christmas ornament sitting on my desk. (Don't ask.)
Has Murdoch laid off all of the editors over there? Does anybody at the Post read the Post?
The story ends this way: "If this more detailed test becomes more popular, are we ready, as a society, accept [sic] more abortions based on possible future afflictions?"
Are we ready, as a society, to accept more of this from The New York Post?