IRISH scientists have developed a screening test which could detect life-threatening pre-eclampsia in the early stages of pregnancy.
Pre-eclampsia causes high blood pressure in expectant mothers and is thought to affect 3pc of first-time mums.
At present, there is no effective test for the condition.
Therefore, medics are unable to offer preventative treatments.
However, scientists in Cork have developed a screening test which they believe could detect the condition at the 15th week of pregnancy.
If the test is found to be successful, it could be available to all mums-to-be in less than three years. Clinical trials are currently underway and should finish by 2016.
The project – Improved Pregnancy Outcomes by Early Detection – has received €6m in EU funding and began in November 2012.
Project leader Professor Louis Kenny, UCC Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, said it took the college a total of 12 years to develop the test.
Some 5,000 first-time mothers from across the EU will now be involved in the clinical trials, including 1,000 from Munster.