Page last updated: January 10, 2017

Blood test may help identify infants at risk for foetal alcohol spectrum disorders

A blood test on expectant mothers may help identify infants at risk for foetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD), according to a new study. Being able to identify infants at risk for FASD might lead to early treatment and better outcomes, the researchers said.

The health and drinking histories of 68 pregnant women in western Ukraine were examined, along with blood samples collected during the second and third trimesters of their pregnancies.

Moderate to high levels of drinking during early pregnancy were associated with major differences in some RNA molecules circulating in an expectant mother’s blood. These differences were seen in mothers whose babies showed physical or mental signs of alcohol exposure in the first year of life.

One reason fetal alcohol spectrum disorders can be hard to diagnose is that infants exposed to the same amount of alcohol while in the womb may have much different outcomes, the researchers said. “Collectively, our data indicate that maternal plasma miRNAs may help predict infant outcomes and may be useful to classify difficult-to-diagnose FASD subpopulations” commented Rajesh Miranda, PhD, professor in the Texas A&M College of Medicine and co-senior author of the study. “If we can reset developmental trajectories earlier in life, it is a lot easier than trying to treat disabilities later in life,” he added.

More studies with larger samples of mothers and babies are needed to confirm these findings, the researchers said.

Source: S Balaraman, JJ Schafer, AM Tseng, W Wertelecki, L Yevtushok, N Zymak-Zakutnya, C D. Chambers, RC Miranda. Plasma miRNA Profiles in Pregnant Women Predict Infant Outcomes following Prenatal Alcohol Exposure. PLOS ONE, 2016; 11 (11): e0165081.

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