I knew this would come. But I didn’t think it would be here so fast.
A genetic test that allows couples to be checked for incurable inherited diseases before they think about starting a family has been created by scientists.
The kit examines samples of blood for the flawed DNA behind almost 600 ‘catastrophic’ conditions, many of which kill in the first years of life.
Couples deemed to be at risk of having a child with a short life blighted by ill-health and pain could then opt for an IVF treatment that allows only healthy embryos to be implanted or to use donor eggs or sperm. They could also choose to adopt instead.
The British-born researcher behind the kit believes that everyone could benefit from being tested, whether they have a family history of illness or not.
Dr Stephen Kingsmore, of the Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City in the US, said that wide-spread testing would spare children and their parents the pain of serious disease and save the health service a fortune.The kit could be available in British fertility clinics within month.
The test, which would cost under £400 per person, could also be used to accurately diagnose sick children, some of whom currently spend years being shunted from doctor to doctor.
But critics warn that not everyone will want to know what the future holds for them and say it is another step down the slippery slope towards the perfect child.
Those with a family history of conditions such as cystic fibrosis are already entitled to screening on the NHS.
But the new test is aimed carriers of disease. They will be healthy themselves and may be completely unaware of the problem lurking in their DNA.
But if they meet someone who has same genetic flaw, there is a one in four chance that any child they have will be ill.
Couples would give samples of blood to be screened for genetic mutations behind 580 different diseases.
These include cystic fibrosis and rarer and less well-known conditions such as Batten disease, which causes blindness, fits, paralysis and early death.
‘People want to believe that it is somehow possible to create a perfect child. And given that they no longer want too many children, then the ideal is to get the best one you can.’