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USDTL Research

Prevalence of fatty acid ethyl esters in meconium specimens

Clin Chem. 2003 Jan;49(1):133-6.
Moore C, Jones J, Lewis D, Buchi K.
US Drug Testing Laboratories, 1700 S. Mount Prospect Rd., Des Plaines, IL 60018, USA. cmmuk@yahoo.com

BACKGROUND: Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), alcohol-related birth defects (ARBDs), and alcohol-related neurodevelopment disorders (ARNDs) in neonates are often the result of maternal alcohol consumption during pregnancy. Facial characteristics are associated with FAS, but ARBDs and ARNDs are more difficult to diagnose. Fetal exposure to alcohol can cause central nervous system dysfunction, pre- and postnatal growth problems, cardiac defects in neonates, and attention deficit disorders and mental retardation in older children. To date, diagnosis of fetal alcohol effect has depended largely on maternal interview, although clinical tests are becoming more widely used. Fatty acid ethyl esters (FAEEs) are formed in the body by esterification of ethanol with free fatty acids and trans-esterification of glycerides and have been detected in the meconium of newborns. This report estimates the prevalence of fetal alcohol exposure in two populations by detecting FAEEs in meconium. METHODS: We analyzed the prevalence of FAEEs in the meconium of two separate groups of neonates by use of solid-phase extraction and analysis by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry in the chemical ionization mode. In the first study, meconium samples were taken anonymously from babies born in a large, regional perinatal center in Hawaii. In the second study, specimens were obtained from infants admitted to six different newborn intensive care units within the state of Utah. RESULTS: In the first study, 73 of 436 (16.7%) meconium specimens tested were considered positive for FAEEs. When broken down into quartiles, the mean total FAEEs measured were 1,059, 3,133, 6,628, and 62,115 ng/g. In the second study, 35 of 289 (12.1%) specimens were considered positive. When broken into quartiles, the mean total FAEEs were 1,139, 3,067, 7,674, and 50,143 ng/g. The overall FAEE profiles of the two study sets were remarkably similar. CONCLUSION: In an adequate meconium specimen, a total FAEE concentration >10,000 ng/g may indicate that the newborn has been exposed to significant amounts of alcohol during pregnancy.



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