A source of error in prenatal screening for trisomies is PCR amplification error associated with guanine-cytosine (GC) content of DNA fragments in maternal plasma. We describe a simple method of allowing for this.
Data from a Reflex DNA screening programme (67 trisomy 18 and 83 unaffected pregnancies) were used to compare the ratio of chromosome 18 DNA fragment counts to chromosome 8 DNA fragment counts (because chromosome 8 has a similar GC content to chromosome 18) with the percentage of chromosome 18 DNA counts using counts from all autosomes in the denominator, with and without an all autosome correction for the GC content of the DNA fragments.
A chromosome 18 to 8 ratio of DNA fragment counts was more discriminatory than the percentage of all autosome counts arising from chromosome 18 without, or with an all autosome correction for GC content bias. It achieves a high screening performance, eg. for a 0.25% false-positive rate, a 97% detection rate instead of 49% without a correction for GC content, and 91% with an all autosome correction for GC content.
Consideration can be given to using the ratio of chromosome 18 DNA fragment counts to chromosome 8 DNA fragment counts in cell-free DNA prenatal screening for trisomy 18, avoiding the need for more complex methods of making a correction for the GC content currently used.