Pregnant Australian women sending blood abroad for Down's test

The test, available in the US and China, is 98% accurate and in most cases does away with the need for amniocentesis or chorionic villus sampling (CVS).

About one in 10 pregnant Australians are now sending their blood overseas, said Associate Professor Howard Slater, who is taking part in a panel discussion at a Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia (RCPA) conference in Melbourne today.

"It seems ludicrous to be sending samples overseas. The cost started at $1,334 but has fallen to about $700."

It is likely to become cheaper when Australian laboratories start doing the test in about six months, said Professor Slater of the Victorian Clinical Genetic Services.

"It seems reasonable that the government should pay a portion of the price."

At present most Australian women opt for the nuchal translucency screening test.