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Gene mutation protects fetus from alcohol’s effects
Research in the Journal of Pediatrics reported A mutation of an enzyme gene which seems to protect the fetus against alcohol consumed by the mother, according to a study of mothers and their infants.

Lead researcher Dr. Sandra W. Jacobson of Wayne State University in Detroit and colleagues report on their study of 263 mother and child pairs. Two hundred fourteen of the women consumed alcohol during pregnancy.

Jacobson states that “our research has shown that about 20 percent of African American children are born to mothers with a particular genetic (mutation), which makes it less likely that maternal drinking during pregnancy will adversely affect their child’s development.”

This mutation, she added, “has been shown to be related to the speed with which alcohol is metabolized by the mother. Unfortunately, most African American as well as Caucasian children are not protected by this (mutation) and are, therefore, at risk of developing fetal alcohol effects if their mothers drink heavily during pregnancy.”

Women with one or two copies of the genetic mutation, termed ADH1B*3, tended to drink less during pregnancy, and their offspring were free of toxic effects. “The negative effects of alcohol exposure were seen only in infants whose mothers lacked” the mutation altogether, the team found”.

“Some women who drink during pregnancy will, therefore, give birth to unaffected children,” continued Jacobson. “However, others should recognize that this does not mean that they are similarly protected.”

Source: Journal of Pediatrics, January 2006.

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