Meconium Markers May Point to Fetal Alcohol Risks

March 12, 2008

Fatty acid ethyl esters in meconium may identify infants who are at risk of mental and psychomotor developmental delays due to fetal alcohol exposure, according to research released online Jan. 21 in advance of publication in the Journal of Pediatrics.

WEDNESDAY, March 12 (HealthDay News) -- Fatty acid ethyl esters in meconium may identify infants who are at risk of mental and psychomotor developmental delays due to fetal alcohol exposure, according to research released online Jan. 21 in advance of publication in the Journal of Pediatrics.

Jennifer Peterson, M.D., of the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland, and colleagues analyzed data from 190 infants. Meconium samples were taken shortly after birth, and mothers answered questions on their alcohol use during pregnancy within a month of the delivery. Mothers were predominantly black and of low socioeconomic status. The researchers assessed infants' neurodevelopment at 6.5 months, 1 year and 2 years of age, using the Bayley Scales of Infant Development.

Higher concentrations of fatty acid ethyl esters (FAEE) -- which are non-oxidative metabolites of ethanol -- were significantly associated with poorer mental and psychomotor development at all of the follow-up visits. The FAEE, in particular, were ethyl myristate, ethyl palmitate, ethyl oleate, ethyl linoleate, ethyl linolenate and ethyl arachidonate.

"The American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Substance Abuse and Committee on Children with Disabilities recommends that infants and children with a suspected diagnosis of fetal alcohol syndrome or fetal alcohol spectrum disorder should undergo evaluation for neurodevelopmental and psychosocial problems. In the future, the meconium analysis described in this article could be used as an early identifier at birth of such at-risk children," the authors conclude.

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