CytoGenX Medical Genetic Laboratory Remains Open During the COVID-19 Outbreak

CytoGenX recognizes the need for rapid diagnostic testing for the at-risk pregnant population. CytoGenX understands the enormous stress that the COVID-19 outbreak places on families that are currently pregnant. CytoGenX continues to provide the fastest confirmation available of abnormal prenatal screening results from NITP, maternal serum screening and ultrasounds. Pregnant women normally have weekly prenatal visits with their healthcare providers. However, in light of the COVID-19 outbreak, prenatal visits are being limited to lower the risk of COVID-19 exposure. This leads to screening tests also being delayed and offered only during the anatomy scan at 20 weeks gestation. Results of these tests can take up to 2 weeks to report placing enormous and often unnecessary stress on an expectant mother. If a genetic abnormality is suspected at 22 weeks gestation confirmatory diagnostic testing needs to be performed in a center that can issue those results as quickly as possible. CytoGenX can issue confirmatory results in as little as 24 hours.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) issued a statement that “pregnant women may be at higher risk of severe illness, morbidity, or mortality compared with the general population,” likely due to physiologic changes that happen during pregnancy, and because pregnancy constitutes “a state of relative immunosuppression as compared to non-pregnancy.” Additionally, pregnant women normally experience and increased heart rate, diminished lung capacity and are at risk for gestational diabetes all of which can lead to increased vulnerability of severe respiratory problems if infected with COVID-19. To date there is no evidence of vertical transmission (mother to fetus) of COVID-19. However, UC Berkeley researchers have shown that high fever during the first three to eight weeks of pregnancy may lead to abnormal development in the fetus specifically the heart and jaw.

Additionally, the Slone Epidemiology Center at Boston University and the CDC have reported a link to fever and neural tube defects. They report that the consumption of 400 micrograms of folic acid every day may reduce the risk of fever induced neural tube defects. The SMFM has recently released guidance regarding COVID-19 and antenatal surveillance: “Very little is known about the natural history of pregnancy after a patient recovers from COVID-19. Given how little is known about this infection, a detailed mid-trimester anatomy ultrasound examination may be considered following first-trimester maternal infection. For those experiencing illness later in pregnancy, it is reasonable to consider sonographic assessment of fetal growth in the third trimester” As these same abnormal ultrasound findings may have a genetic basis rather than a consequence of maternal hyperthermia. It is important to quickly determine if abnormal fetal anatomy has a genetic basis. A positive genetic test would allow for more accurate phenotype prediction.

It is extremely important that pregnant women have access to necessary prenatal care. The COVID-19 outbreak should not compromise the monitoring of ongoing pregnancies by the prenatal healthcare professionals. By partnering with OB/GYN and MFM practices CytoGenX strives to help maintain direct access of diagnostic genetic testing for all pregnant women. CytoGenX offers 24 hour confirmatory testing coupled with immediate access to comprehensive diagnostic testing. For more information about CytoGenX, visit them online https://cytogenx.com.

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