It's known that many diagnostic centres in the city send pregnant women's blood during the 10-12th week of pregnancy abroad, via couriers, to detect chromosomal abnormalities.
However, recently when BMC health department officials attended a medical conference, they learnt that these tests could also be used to determine the sex of an unborn baby, and that diagnostic centres were clandestinely adopting this method to make money. It now plans to rope in courier companies to tackle the menace, and has written to the government seeking its help in tackling the problem.
Dr Padmaja Keskar, BMC executive health officer, said: “We came to know of this at a medical conference. We have decided to ensure that illegal sex determination is not undertaken on the pretext of finding genetic abnormalities. We have also written to the government to help us deal with the problem.”
Dr Keskar said BMC would ask all genetic testing/pathology centres to register themselves under the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act, and ensure they followed the rules.
“The centres that send blood samples abroad or elsewhere in the country should be registered. They also need to fix the route and keep records of the blood samples transported,” said Dr Keskar.
BMC will also educate courier companies to track such illegal activities. “Courier companies have the least role to play. However, if they are educated on the PCPNDT Act and the possibilities of illegal sex determination tests being conducted under the pretext of finding genetic abnormalities, they can tip us off,” said Dr Keskar.
Non-invasive blood test of pregnant mothers for prenatal test like NIPT (Non-invasive prenatal test /NACE (Non-invasive Analysis for Chromosomal Examination) or Amniocore tests are done during 10-12th week of pregnancy.
“Certain blood tests are conducted to diagnose anomalies in a foetus. However, there are chances of such tests revealing the sex of a foetus. We have, hence, decided to appoint an expert committee to go into the issue and take a decision. The report is expected soon,” said Dr Satish Pawar, director, Directorate of Health Services.
“Certain procedures in Invitro Fertility (IVF) like pre-implementation genetic diagnosis (PGD) procedure may reveal the sex of a foetus. Another test, 'Cell-free foetal DNA testing', a screening test, indicates if a woman is at an increased risk of having a foetus with Down Syndrome. In this test, the blood sample of the woman is taken after 10 weeks of pregnancy. Through this test, if a doctor wants to, s/he can know the sex of a foetus. Hence, the government wants to regularise the procedure and bring it under the Act," Dr Pawar added.