Publications by authors named "Wladimir Wertelecki"

41 Publications

Prevention of Neural Tube Defects in Europe: A Public Health Failure.

Front Pediatr 2021 24;9:647038. Epub 2021 Jun 24.

Department of Genetics, Eurocat Northern Netherlands, University of Groningen, University Medical Center Groningen, Groningen, Netherlands.

Thirty years ago it was demonstrated that folic acid taken before pregnancy and in early pregnancy reduced the risk of a neural tube defect (NTD). Despite Public Health Initiatives across Europe recommending that women take 0.4 mg folic acid before becoming pregnant and during the first trimester, the prevalence of NTD pregnancies has not materially decreased in the EU since 1998, in contrast to the dramatic fall observed in the USA. This study aimed to estimate the number of NTD pregnancies that would have been prevented if flour had been fortified with folic acid in Europe from 1998 as it had been in the USA. The number of NTD pregnancies from 1998 to 2017 that would have been prevented if folic acid fortification had been implemented in the 28 countries who were members of the European Union in 2019 was predicted was predicted using data on NTD prevalence from 35 EUROCAT congenital anomaly registries and literature searches for population serum folate levels and folic acid supplementation. From 1998 to 2017 an estimated 95,213 NTD pregnancies occurred amongst 104 million births in the 28 countries in the EU, a prevalence of 0.92 per 1,000 births. The median serum folate level in Europe over this time period was estimated to be 14.1 μg/L. There is a lack of information about women taking folic acid supplements before becoming pregnant and during the first trimester of pregnancy, with one meta-analysis indicating that around 25% of women did so. An estimated 14,600 NTD pregnancies may have been prevented if the European countries had implemented fortification at the level adopted by the USA in 1998 and 25% of women took folic acid supplements. An estimated 19,500 NTD pregnancies would have been prevented if no women took folic acid supplements. This study suggests that failure to implement mandatory folic acid fortification in the 28 European countries has caused, and continues to cause, neural tube defects to occur in almost 1,000 pregnancies every year.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fped.2021.647038DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8264257PMC
June 2021

Partner influence as a factor in maternal alcohol consumption and depressive symptoms, and maternal effects on infant neurodevelopmental outcomes.

Alcohol Clin Exp Res 2021 06 17;45(6):1265-1275. Epub 2021 May 17.

Department of Pediatrics, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, CA, USA.

Background: Few studies have investigated the partner's influence on risk factors such as alcohol consumption and depression during pregnancy. Partner substance use and lower relationship satisfaction predict higher maternal alcohol use and depressive symptoms. Because prenatal alcohol use and maternal depression affect infant outcomes, it is imperative to examine how the partner affects these maternal risk factors. The current study examined the effect of a latent construct of partner influence on maternal alcohol use and depressive symptoms, and the effects on infant development of these maternal factors.

Methods: Participants were 246 pregnant women from 2 sites in Western Ukraine from whom longitudinal data were collected as part of a multisite study. In the first trimester, mothers reported on relationship satisfaction, partner substance use, and socioeconomic status (SES). In the third trimester, they reported on alcohol use and depressive symptoms. Infants were assessed using the Bayley Scale of Infant Development (average age = 6.93 months). A latent construct titled partner influence was formed using partner substance use and measures of relationship satisfaction, including the frequency of quarreling, happiness in the relationship, and the ease of talking with the partner. Using structural equation modeling, a model was specified in which partner influence and SES predicted maternal alcohol use and depressive symptoms, which in turn predicted infant neurodevelopmental outcomes.

Results: Higher partner influence significantly predicted lower prenatal alcohol use and lower depressive symptoms, controlling for the effect of SES. Higher maternal prenatal alcohol use significantly predicted lower infant mental and psychomotor development. Maternal depressive symptoms did not predict infant development over and above the effect of alcohol use.

Conclusions: Partner influence is an important contributor to prenatal alcohol use and maternal depressive symptoms, over and above the effect of SES. The significant paths from prenatal alcohol exposure to infant neurodevelopmental outcomes underscore the importance of partner influence during pregnancy.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/acer.14612DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8254755PMC
June 2021

Measurement of neurodevelopmental effects of prenatal alcohol exposure in Ukrainian preschool children.

Child Neuropsychol 2021 May 13:1-16. Epub 2021 May 13.

Collaborative Initiative for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders.

Effects of prenatal alcohol exposure (PAE) are rarely measured in preschool children due to relative insensitivity of assessment methods at this age. To examine the potential of a nonverbal battery in early identification of cognitive problems in alcohol-exposed children, 291 prospectively identified Ukrainian children were evaluated using a test battery focusing on early executive functioning (EF) and visuospatial skills, areas of cognitive development particularly sensitive to PAE in older children. Tests included the Differential Ability Scales, 2 Edition (DAS-2) and several NEPSY/NEPSY-II subtests, standardized in the United States. Others were adapted from commonly used non-standardized neuropsychological measures of EF (Preschool Spatial Span, Imitation Hand Game, A not B, Delayed Attention, Subject Ordered Pointing). Children in two sites in Ukraine, Rivne and Khmelnitsky, were tested at 3 ½-4 ½ years to identify effects of PAE. Although most children performed within the average range, Alcohol-Exposed preschoolers had lower scores on DAS-II Summary Scores as well as on specific subtests. To evaluate the effects of alcohol dose during the pre-pregnancy recognition period and during mid-gestation of pregnancy, generalized linear regression models were used controlling for demographic and individual variables. In addition to DAS-II variables, measures reflecting sustained attention, working memory and ability to shift cognitive set were impacted by alcohol dose. Early executive function appears to subsume these performance differences. In conclusion, findings indicate that the effects of PAE can be identified in the preschool period and reliably measured using tests assessing nonverbal and spatial skills supported by executive functioning.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09297049.2021.1919298DOI Listing
May 2021

A teratology information system in vernacular: Closing an information gap.

Birth Defects Res 2021 Apr 24. Epub 2021 Apr 24.

OMNI-Net Ukraine Birth Defects Program, Rivne, Ukraine.

Background: Leading Teratology Information Systems (TIS) arose in major industrial nations and are mostly in English. The prevalence of anglophone speakers in Ukraine is among the lowest in Europe. A TIS in Ukrainian (UTIS) seeks to diminish an information gap concerning teratogens. The process and results related to UTIS are applicable to formulations of other TIS in vernacular languages.

Methods: Implementation of a free-access UTIS and analysis of utilization patterns. UTIS provides access to articles in Ukrainian (AU) which are summaries extracted from leading international TIS and other sources. AU are revised at least tri-annually.

Results: UTIS provides access to over 1,100 AU accrued since 2016 to the present. The number AU views increased from nearly 30,000 (2016) to over 80,000 (2020); the number of visitors increased from 3,500 to 58,000 during the same periods. The highest percent of users per urban population (2.09, 1.77, and 1.72) was in Ternopil, Ivano-Frankivsk, and Kyiv (capital), respectively; the lowest was in Odesa (0.17).

Conclusions: UTIS reduced an information gap in Ukraine concerning teratogenic risk factors. The process can be implemented elsewhere relying on generally available local resources.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/bdr2.1901DOI Listing
April 2021

Chornobyl radiation-congenital anomalies: A persisting dilemma.

Congenit Anom (Kyoto) 2021 Jan 19;61(1):9-13. Epub 2020 Aug 19.

OMNI-Net Ukraine, Rivne, Ukraine.

We report population prevalence rates of neural tube defects (NDT) and microcephaly (MIC) as well as levels of incorporated Cs137 by pregnant women in two areas of the Rivne Province of Ukraine, a northern half (Polissia) polluted by Chornobyl radiation and not-Polissia areas. Monitoring of congenital malformations was conducted with adherence to methods adopted by a European surveillance network (EUROCAT). Incorporated Cs137 (Bq/kg) by pregnant women residing in the Polissia and not-Polissia areas were obtained concurrently with prenatal ultrasound examinations. In Polissia, the incorporated Cs137 levels by pregnant women as well as the prevalence rates of NDTs and MIC are significantly higher than in not-Polissia. In Polissia, the prevalence rates of NDTs and MIC are among the highest in Europe. The debate concerning the teratogenic impact of chronic exposures to low levels of ionizing radiation was re-ignited by our 2010 report. Health agencies uphold the notion that exposure to Chornobyl radiation levels are too low to be teratogenic, which is inconsistent with our observations. Further investigations in Rivne by international teams can, we believe, contribute facts to the ongoing debate. Our monitoring system, experience and data can facilitate concurrent investigations of teratogenic risks from exposures to other sources of ionizing radiation, alcohol, folate, and zinc deficiencies, among other risk factors. Study of genomic impacts can likewise be undertaken.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/cga.12388DOI Listing
January 2021

Infant Cardiac Orienting Responses Predict Later FASD in the Preschool Period.

Alcohol Clin Exp Res 2021 02 6;45(2):386-394. Epub 2021 Jan 6.

Department of Pediatrics (KLJ, WW, ChDC), University of California San Diego, La Jolla, California, USA.

Background: Prenatal alcohol exposure (PAE) has been identified as one of the leading preventable causes of developmental disabilities, but early identification of those impacted has been challenging. This study evaluated the use of infant cardiac orienting responses (CORs), which assess neurophysiological encoding of environmental events and are sensitive to the impact of PAE, to predict later fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) status.

Methods: Mother-infant dyads from Ukraine were recruited during pregnancy based on the mother's use of alcohol. Participants (n = 120) were then seen at 6 and 12 months when CORs were collected and in the preschool period when they were categorized as having (i) fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), (ii) partial FAS (pFAS), (iii) alcohol-related neurodevelopmental disorder (ARND), (iv) PAE and no diagnosis, or (v) no PAE and no diagnosis. To assess CORs, stimuli (auditory tones and pictures) were presented using a fixed-trial habituation/dishabituation paradigm. Heart rate (HR) responses were aggregated across the first 3 habituation and dishabituation trials and converted to z-scores relative to the sample's mean response at each second by stimuli. Z-scores greater than 1 were then counted by condition (habituation or dishabituation) to compute a total risk index.

Results: Significant group differences were found on total deviation scores of the CORs elicited from visual but not auditory stimuli. Those categorized as pFAS/FAS had significantly higher total deviation scores than did those categorized as ARND or as having no alcohol-related diagnosis with or without a history of PAE. Receiver operating characteristic curve analysis of the visual response yielded an area under the curve value of 0.765 for predicting to pFAS/FAS status.

Conclusions: A score reflecting total deviation from typical HR during CORs elicited using visual stimuli in infancy may be useful in identifying individuals who need early intervention as a result of their PAE.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/acer.14525DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7887046PMC
February 2021

Prevalence and mortality in children with congenital diaphragmatic hernia: a multicountry study.

Ann Epidemiol 2021 04 27;56:61-69.e3. Epub 2020 Nov 27.

Arkansas Center for Birth Defects Research and Prevention and Arkansas Reproductive Health Monitoring System and Department of Epidemiology, Fay W. Boozman College of Public Health, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Little Rock, AR. Electronic address:

Purpose: This study determined the prevalence, mortality, and time trends of children with congenital diaphragmatic hernia (CDH).

Methods: Twenty-five hospital- and population-based surveillance programs in 19 International Clearinghouse for Birth Defects Surveillance and Research member countries provided birth defects mortality data between 1974 and 2015. CDH cases included live births, stillbirths, or elective termination of pregnancy for fetal anomalies. Prevalence, cumulative mortality rates, and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were calculated using Poisson regression and a Kaplan-Meier product-limit method. Joinpoint regression analyses were conducted to assess time trends.

Results: The prevalence of CDH was 2.6 per 10,000 total births (95% CI: 2.5-2.7), slightly increasing between 2001 and 2012 (average annual percent change = 0.5%; 95% CI:-0.6 to 1.6). The total percent mortality of CDH was 37.7%, with hospital-based registries having more deaths among live births than population-based registries (45.1% vs. 33.8%). Mortality rates decreased over time (average annual percent change = -2.4%; 95% CI: -3.8 to 1.1). Most deaths due to CDH occurred among 2- to 6-day-old infants for both registry types (36.3%, hospital-based; 12.1%, population-based).

Conclusions: The mortality of CDH has decreased over time. Mortality remains high during the first week and varied by registry type.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.annepidem.2020.11.007DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8009766PMC
April 2021

A multi-country study of prevalence and early childhood mortality among children with omphalocele.

Birth Defects Res 2020 12 17;112(20):1787-1801. Epub 2020 Oct 17.

International Center on Birth Defects, International Clearinghouse for Birth Defects Surveillance and Research, Rome, Italy.

Background: Omphalocele is the second most common abdominal birth defect and often occurs with other structural and genetic defects. The objective of this study was to determine omphalocele prevalence, time trends, and mortality during early childhood, by geographical region, and the presence of associated anomalies.

Methods: We conducted a retrospective study with 23 birth defect surveillance systems in 18 countries who are members of the International Clearinghouse for Birth Defects Surveillance and Research that submitted data on cases ascertained from 2000 through 2012, approximately 16 million pregnancies were surveyed that resulted in live births, stillbirths, or elective terminations of pregnancy for fetal anomalies (ETOPFA) and cases with omphalocele were included. Overall prevalence and mortality rates for specific ages were calculated (day of birth, neonatal, infant, and early childhood). We used Kaplan-Meier estimates with 95% confidence intervals (CI) to calculate cumulative mortality and joinpoint regression for time trend analyses.

Results: The prevalence of omphalocele was 2.6 per 10,000 births (95% CI: 2.5, 2.7) and showed no temporal change from 2000-2012 (average annual percent change = -0.19%, p = .52). The overall mortality rate was 32.1% (95% CI: 30.2, 34.0). Most deaths occurred during the neonatal period and among children with multiple anomalies or syndromic omphalocele. Prevalence and mortality varied by registry type (e.g., hospital- vs. population-based) and inclusion or exclusion of ETOPFA.

Conclusions: The prevalence of omphalocele showed no temporal change from 2000-2012. Approximately one-third of children with omphalocele did not survive early childhood with most deaths occurring in the neonatal period.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/bdr2.1822DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7722785PMC
December 2020

Patterns of Prenatal Alcohol Exposure and Alcohol-Related Dysmorphic Features.

Alcohol Clin Exp Res 2020 10 6;44(10):2045-2052. Epub 2020 Sep 6.

From the Department of Pediatrics (GB, KJ, WW, CC), University of California San Diego, San Diego, California.

Background: In animal models, it is possible to induce different alcohol-related dysmorphic abnormalities based on the timing of prenatal alcohol exposure (PAE). Our objective was to assess whether patterns of PAE differentially predict alcohol-related dysmorphic features in 415 infants.

Methods: We analyzed a prospective pregnancy cohort in western Ukraine enrolled between 2008 and 2014. Five distinct trajectories were previously identified to summarize PAE: (i) minimal/no PAE (n = 253), (ii) low/moderate PAE with reduction early in gestation (n = 78), (iii) low/moderate sustained PAE (n = 20), (iv) moderate/high PAE with reduction early in gestation (n = 45), and (v) high sustained PAE (n = 19). A dysmorphology examination of body size, 3 cardinal, and 15 noncardinal dysmorphic features was performed at approximately 6 to 12 months of age. A modified dysmorphology score was created based on previously published weights. Univariate comparisons were made between each dysmorphic feature and trajectory group. Features that differed by trajectory group were assessed in multivariable analyses. Models were adjusted for maternal age, prenatal vitamin use, socioeconomic status, smoking, and child's age at dysmorphology examination, with censoring weights for losses to follow-up.

Results: The 3 highest trajectories predicted total dysmorphology score, with larger effects in sustained exposure groups. Cardinal features: The 3 highest trajectories were each associated with a 2- to 3-fold increased risk of having 2 + cardinal facial features. When assessed individually, there were no consistent associations between the individual trajectories and each cardinal feature. Noncardinal features: The 3 highest trajectories were associated with increased risk of hypotelorism. Only the highest trajectory was associated with heart murmur. The highest trajectory predicted <10th centile for sex and age on height, weight, and head circumference; and moderate/high with reduction trajectory also predicted height.

Conclusions: While we did not observe differential results based on specific trajectories of exposure, findings support the wide range of dysmorphic features associated with PAE, particularly at high and sustained levels.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/acer.14430DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7722075PMC
October 2020

Josef Warkany's gestation of the teratology society.

Birth Defects Res 2020 07;112(12):885-889

Department of Pediatrics, University of California San Diego, California.

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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/bdr2.1684DOI Listing
July 2020

Altered Maternal Plasma Fatty Acid Composition by Alcohol Consumption and Smoking during Pregnancy and Associations with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders.

J Am Coll Nutr 2020 Mar-Apr;39(3):249-260. Epub 2020 Apr 2.

Department of Nutrition, University of California, Davis, Davis, California, USA.

Polyunsaturated fatty acids are vital for optimal fetal neuronal development. The relationship between maternal alcohol consumption and smoking with third trimester plasma fatty acids were examined and their association with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD). Moderate to heavy alcohol-using and low/unexposed comparison women were recruited during mid-pregnancy from two prenatal clinics in Ukraine. The participants' infants underwent physical and neurobehavioral exams prior to one-year of age and classified as having FASD by maternal alcohol consumption and neurobehavioral scores. A subset of mother-child pairs was selected representing three groups of cases and controls: Alcohol-Exposed with FASD (AE-FASD, n = 30), Alcohol-Exposed Normally Developing (AE-ND, n = 33), or Controls (n = 46). Third trimester maternal plasma samples were analyzed for fatty acids and levels were compared across groups. The percent of C18:0 (p < 0.001), arachidonic acid (AA, C20:4n-6, p = 0.017) and C22:5n-6 (p = 0.001) were significantly higher in AE-FASD women than controls or AE-ND women. Alcohol-exposed women who smoked had lower C22:5n-3 (p = 0.029) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA, C22:6n-3, p = 0.005) and higher C22:5n-6 (p = 0.013) than women consuming alcohol alone or abstainers. Alterations in fatty acid profiles were observed in moderate to heavy alcohol-consuming mothers with infants classified with FASD compared to alcohol-exposed normally developing infants or controls.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/07315724.2020.1737984DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8011805PMC
June 2021

Immune network dysregulation associated with child neurodevelopmental delay: modulatory role of prenatal alcohol exposure.

J Neuroinflammation 2020 Jan 28;17(1):39. Epub 2020 Jan 28.

Department of Cellular and Physiological Sciences, University of British Columbia, 3307 - 2350 Health Sciences Mall, Vancouver, BC, V6T 1Z3, Canada.

Background: Evidence suggests that cytokine imbalances may be at the root of deficits that occur in numerous neurodevelopmental disorders, including schizophrenia and autism spectrum disorder. Notably, while clinical studies have demonstrated maternal cytokine imbalances with alcohol consumption during pregnancy-and data from animal models have identified immune disturbances in alcohol-exposed offspring-to date, immune alterations in alcohol-exposed children have not been explored. Thus, here we hypothesized that perturbations in the immune environment as a result of prenatal alcohol exposure will program the developing immune system, and result in immune dysfunction into childhood. Due to the important role of cytokines in brain development/function, we further hypothesized that child immune profiles might be associated with their neurodevelopmental status.

Methods: As part of a longitudinal study in Ukraine, children of mothers reporting low/no alcohol consumption or moderate-to-heavy alcohol consumption during pregnancy were enrolled in the study and received neurodevelopmental assessments. Group stratification was based on maternal alcohol consumption and child neurodevelopmental status resulting in the following groups: A/TD, alcohol-consuming mother, typically developing child; A/ND, alcohol-consuming mother, neurodevelopmental delay in the child; C/TD, control mother (low/no alcohol consumption), typically development child; and C/ND, control mother, neurodevelopmental delay in the child. Forty cytokines/chemokines were measured in plasma and data were analyzed using regression and constrained principle component analysis.

Results: Analyses revealed differential cytokine network activity associated with both prenatal alcohol exposure and neurodevelopmental status. Specifically, alcohol-exposed children showed activation of a cytokine network including eotaxin-3, eotaxin, and bFGF, irrespective of neurodevelopmental status. However, another cytokine network was differentially activated based on neurodevelopmental outcome: A/TD showed activation of MIP-1β, MDC, and MCP-4, and inhibition of CRP and PlGF, with opposing pattern of activation/inhibition detected in the A/ND group. By contrast, in the absence of alcohol-exposure, activation of a network including IL-2, TNF-β, IL-10, and IL-15 was associated with neurodevelopmental delay.

Conclusions: Taken together, this comprehensive assessment of immune markers allowed for the identification of unique immune milieus that are associated with alcohol exposure as well as both alcohol-related and alcohol-independent neurodevelopmental delay. These findings are a critical step towards establishing unique immune biomarkers for alcohol-related and alcohol-independent neurodevelopmental delay.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s12974-020-1717-8DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6988366PMC
January 2020

Analysis of Mortality among Neonates and Children with Spina Bifida: An International Registry-Based Study, 2001-2012.

Paediatr Perinat Epidemiol 2019 11 21;33(6):436-448. Epub 2019 Oct 21.

International Center on Birth Defects, International Clearinghouse for Birth Defects Surveillance and Research, Rome, Italy.

Background: Medical advancements have resulted in better survival and life expectancy among those with spina bifida, but a significantly increased risk of perinatal and postnatal mortality for individuals with spina bifida remains.

Objectives: To examine stillbirth and infant and child mortality among those affected by spina bifida using data from multiple countries.

Methods: We conducted an observational study, using data from 24 population- and hospital-based surveillance registries in 18 countries contributing as members of the International Clearinghouse for Birth Defects Surveillance and Research (ICBDSR). Cases of spina bifida that resulted in livebirths or stillbirths from 20 weeks' gestation or elective termination of pregnancy for fetal anomaly (ETOPFA) were included. Among liveborn spina bifida cases, we calculated mortality at different ages as number of deaths among liveborn cases divided by total number of liveborn cases with spina bifida. As a secondary outcome measure, we estimated the prevalence of spina bifida per 10 000 total births. The 95% confidence interval for the prevalence estimate was estimated using the Poisson approximation of binomial distribution.

Results: Between years 2001 and 2012, the overall first-week mortality proportion was 6.9% (95% CI 6.3, 7.7) and was lower in programmes operating in countries with policies that allowed ETOPFA compared with their counterparts (5.9% vs. 8.4%). The majority of first-week mortality occurred on the first day of life. In programmes where information on long-term mortality was available through linkage to administrative databases, survival at 5 years of age was 90%-96% in Europe, and 86%-96% in North America.

Conclusions: Our multi-country study showed a high proportion of stillbirth and infant and child deaths among those with spina bifida. Effective folic acid interventions could prevent many cases of spina bifida, thereby preventing associated childhood morbidity and mortality.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/ppe.12589DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6899817PMC
November 2019

Persistent Changes in Stress-Regulatory Genes in Pregnant Women or Children Exposed Prenatally to Alcohol.

Alcohol Clin Exp Res 2019 09 6;43(9):1887-1897. Epub 2019 Aug 6.

Rivne Diagnostic Center and Omni-Net Center, (LY), Rivne, Ukraine.

Background: We have recently shown that binge or heavy levels of alcohol drinking increase deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) methylation and reduce gene expression of proopiomelanocortin (POMC) and period 2 (PER2) in adult human subjects (Gangisetty et al., Alcohol Clin Exp Res, 43, 2019, 212). One hypothesis would be that methylation of these 2 genes is consistently associated with alcohol exposure and could be used as biomarkers to predict risk of prenatal alcohol exposure (PAE). Results of the present study provided some support for this hypothesis.

Methods: We conducted a series of studies to determine DNA methylation changes in stress regulatory genes proopiomelanocortin (POMC) and period 2 (PER2) using biological samples from 3 separate cohorts of patients: (i) pregnant women who consumed moderate-to-high levels of alcohol or low/unexposed controls, (ii) children with PAE and non-alcohol-exposed controls, and (iii) children with PAE treated with or without choline.

Results: We found pregnant women who consumed moderate-to-high levels of alcohol and gave birth to PAE children had higher DNA methylation of POMC and PER2. PAE children also had increased methylation of POMC and PER2. The differences in the gene methylation of PER2 and POMC between PAE and controls did not differ by maternal smoking status. PAE children had increased levels of stress hormone cortisol and adrenocorticotropic hormone. Choline supplementation reduced DNA hypermethylation and increased expression of POMC and PER2 in children with PAE.

Conclusions: These data suggest that PAE significantly elevates DNA methylation of POMC and PER2 and increases levels of stress hormones. Furthermore, these results suggest the possibility that measuring DNA methylation levels of PER2 and POMC in biological samples from pregnant women or from children may be useful for identification of a woman or a child with PAE.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/acer.14148DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6722014PMC
September 2019

Patterns of Prenatal Alcohol Use That Predict Infant Growth and Development.

Pediatrics 2019 02 4;143(2). Epub 2019 Jan 4.

Departments of Pediatrics and.

Background: Previous studies have had inconsistent findings regarding the quantity and frequency of prenatal alcohol exposure (PAE) that lead to deficits in growth and neurodevelopment. This may be due to imprecise methods of exposure classification. Our objective in this study was to employ longitudinal trajectory modeling of maternal drinking patterns associated with infant growth or neurodevelopmental deficits to a homogenous sample of mothers and infants.

Methods: From a sample of 471 pregnant women prospectively enrolled in a longitudinal study in the Ukraine, we performed a longitudinal cluster analysis of drinking patterns across gestation. We employed multivariable regression analyses to determine if each trajectory group was associated with infant weight, length, or head circumference at birth or psychomotor or mental deficits in infancy.

Results: We identified 5 distinct PAE trajectory groups: minimal or no PAE throughout gestation, low-to-moderate PAE with discontinuation early in gestation, low-to-moderate PAE sustained across gestation, moderate-to-high PAE with reduction early in gestation, and high PAE sustained across gestation. The highest-trajectory group was associated with deficits in infant weight and length at birth and deficits in psychomotor and mental performance at 6 to 12 months of age. Although confidence intervals overlapped, low-to-moderate sustained use was more strongly associated with most negative infant outcomes than moderate-to-high PAE with early reduction.

Conclusions: With these findings, we confirm that high, sustained PAE confers the highest risk for adverse infant outcomes but demonstrate that even low-to-moderate PAE continued across gestation is associated with certain deficits. This approach may be used to help clinicians identify high-risk infants for targeted early intervention.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1542/peds.2018-2399DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6361345PMC
February 2019

Gestational age and socioeconomic status as mediators for the impact of prenatal alcohol exposure on development at 6 months.

Birth Defects Res 2019 07 31;111(12):789-796. Epub 2018 Oct 31.

Department of Pediatrics, University of California at San Diego, San Diego, California.

Background: Of the many negative outcomes associated with gestational alcohol use, one that has received relatively little attention is preterm birth and its possible contribution to effects of prenatal alcohol exposure (PAE) on development. To examine the increased risk for premature delivery associated with PAE and the joint influence of preterm birth and alcohol on child outcomes, analysis was carried out in a longitudinal cohort recruited in Western Ukraine.

Methods: Alcohol-using women and low or nondrinking controls were identified prenatally for a clinical trial of multivitamins and minerals (MVM) in ameliorating effects of PAE. Women were interviewed to provide information about medical and social status and other drug use. At delivery, information was collected about infant (N = 686) status including gestational age (GA) in weeks. Finally, 441 infants were followed to 6 months of age and cognitive (Mental Developmental Index [MDI]) and motor development (Psychomotor Developmental Index [PDI]) (measured using the Bayley Scales of Infant Development, second Ed (BSID-II).

Results: Seven percent infants were born at <37 weeks GA. The odds ratio for preterm delivery for Alcohol Exposed versus Low/No Alcohol was 2.6 (95% Confidence Interval 1.37, 4.94) (p < .003); MVM supplements were associated with a lower rate of preterm delivery overall, but the relative proportion of preterm births did not vary by MVM supplement status between alcohol exposure groups. In mediation models of 6 month cognitive and motor development with reference to Barron and Kenney in 1986, GA significantly mediated alcohol effects (MDI: Z = -2.64, p < .008; PDI: Z = -2.35, p < .02) although PAE independently affected both outcomes (MDI: t = -5.6, p < .000; PDI: t = -3.19, p < .002).

Conclusion: Results suggest that PAE is associated with higher rates of preterm birth and that alcohol's effect on development in infancy may be both direct and mediated by shortened length of gestation.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/bdr2.1408DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6494703PMC
July 2019

Chornobyl, radiation, neural tube defects, and microcephaly.

Eur J Med Genet 2018 Sep 13;61(9):556-563. Epub 2018 Jun 13.

Omni-Net for Children International Charitable Fund, Rivne, Ukraine; Rivne Province Regional Medical Diagnostic Center, Rivne, Ukraine.

Pregnant women residing in areas impacted by the Chornobyl ionizing radiation of the Rivne Province in Ukraine have persistent higher levels of incorporated cesium-137. In these areas the neural tube defects and microcephaly rates are significantly higher than in areas with lower maternal cesium-137 incorporated levels. In two Rivne counties with populations proximal to nuclear power plants the rates of neural tube defects and microcephaly are the highest in the province. The neural tube defects rates in Rivne are persistently among the highest in Europe.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ejmg.2018.06.005DOI Listing
September 2018

Altered maternal immune networks are associated with adverse child neurodevelopment: Impact of alcohol consumption during pregnancy.

Brain Behav Immun 2018 10 5;73:205-215. Epub 2018 May 5.

Department of Cellular and Physiological Sciences, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada.

Cytokines and chemokines are potent modulators of brain development and as such, dysregulation of the maternal immune system can result in deviations in the fetal cytokine balance, altering the course of typical brain development, and putting the individual on a "pathway to pathology". In the current study, we used a multi-variate approach to evaluate networks of interacting cytokines and investigated whether alterations in the maternal immune milieu could be linked to alcohol-related and alcohol-independent child neurodevelopmental delay. This was achieved through the measurement of 40 cytokines/chemokines from maternal blood samples collected during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy. Importantly, during the second trimester we identified network enrichment in levels of cytokines including IFN-ɣ, IL-10, TNF-β, TNF-α, and CRP associated with offspring neurodevelopmental delay. However, as elevations in levels of these cytokines have previously been reported in a wide range of neurodevelopmental disorders including autism spectrum disorder and schizophrenia, we suggest that this cytokine profile is likely not disorder specific, but rather may be an indicator of neurodevelopmental delay in general. By contrast, distinct clusters of activated/inhibited cytokines were identified based on maternal alcohol consumption and child neurodevelopmental outcome. Specifically, cytokines including IL-15, IL-10, MDC, and members of the VEGF sub-family were highest in alcohol-consuming mothers of children with neurodevelopmental delay and were identified in both network analyses and examination of individual cytokines, whereas a differential and unique cytokine profile was identified in the case of alcohol-independent child neurodevelopmental delay. We propose that the current findings could provide a critical step towards the development of early biomarkers and possibly interventions for alcohol-related neurodevelopmental delay. Importantly, the current approach could be informative for understanding mechanisms linking maternal immune system dysfunction and adverse child outcomes in a range of other neurodevelopmental disorders.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.bbi.2018.05.004DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6344127PMC
October 2018

Vitamin D Deficiency in Pregnant Ukrainian Women: Effects of Alcohol Consumption on Vitamin D Status.

J Am Coll Nutr 2017 01;36(1):44-56

b Department of Internal Medicine , University of California, Davis , Davis , California.

Objective: Heavy alcohol consumption can alter vitamin D status; however, the relationships between alcohol consumption and vitamin D concentrations in pregnant women have not been well studied. The aim of this study was to investigate the vitamin D status in a population of alcohol-exposed (N = 180) and low/unexposed control (N = 179) Ukrainian pregnant women.

Methods: Women who attended prenatal care facilities in 2 regions of Ukraine (Rivne and Khmelnytsky) for a routine prenatal visit were screened for the study. At the time of enrollment (20.4 ± 7.0 weeks of gestation), blood samples and alcohol consumption data (during a typical week around conception and the most recent 2 weeks) were collected. Vitamin D status was assessed by 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D] concentrations.

Results: A high prevalence of suboptimal vitamin D status in pregnant Ukrainian women was observed. Overall, 50.1% and 33.4% of the women were classified as vitamin D deficient [25(OH)D < 20 ng/mL] or insufficient [25(OH)D ≥ 20 ng/mL and ≤30 ng/mL], respectively, based on 2011 Endocrine Society guidelines. Alcohol-exposed women had significantly lower 25(OH)D concentrations than low/unexposed women in Spring (p = 0.006) and Winter (p = 0.022). When vitamin D concentrations were grouped into sunny season (Summer + Fall) compared to not sunny season (Winter + Spring), there was a significant ethanol by season interaction (p = 0.0028), with alcohol-drinking women having lower circulating vitamin D compared to low/unexposed women in seasons of low sun availability.

Conclusions: These data suggest that when vitamin D concentrations are generally low (e.g., during seasons of low sun availability), alcohol consumption during pregnancy has a negative impact on vitamin D status.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/07315724.2016.1174091DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5478197PMC
January 2017

The Use of Cardiac Orienting Responses as an Early and Scalable Biomarker of Alcohol-Related Neurodevelopmental Impairment.

Alcohol Clin Exp Res 2017 01 24;41(1):128-138. Epub 2016 Nov 24.

Department of Pediatrics, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, California.

Background: Considered the leading cause of developmental disabilities worldwide, fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) are a global health problem. To take advantage of neural plasticity, early identification of affected infants is critical. The cardiac orienting response (COR) has been shown to be sensitive to the effects of prenatal alcohol exposure and is an inexpensive, easy to administer assessment tool. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the COR effectiveness in assessing individual risk of developmental delay.

Methods: As part of an ongoing longitudinal cohort study in Ukraine, live-born infants of women with some to heavy amounts of alcohol consumption in pregnancy were recruited and compared to infants of women who consumed low or no alcohol. At 6 and 12 months, infants were evaluated with the Bayley Scales of Infant Development-II. CORs were also collected during a habituation/dishabituation learning paradigm. Using a supervised logistic regression classifier, we compared the predictive utility of the COR indices to that of the 6-month Bayley scores for identification of developmental delay based on 12-month Bayley scores. Heart rate collected at each second (Standard COR) was compared to key features (Key COR) extracted from the response.

Results: Negative predictive values (NPV) were 85% for Standard COR, 82% for Key COR, and 77% for the Bayley, and positive predictive values (PPV) were 66% for Standard COR, 62% for Key COR, and 43% for the Bayley.

Conclusions: Predictive analysis based on the COR resulted in better NPV and PPV than the 6-month Bayley score. As the resources required to obtain a Bayley score are substantially more than in a COR-based paradigm, the findings are suggestive of its utility as an early scalable screening tool based on the COR. Further work is needed to test its long-term predictive accuracy.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/acer.13261DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5205554PMC
January 2017

Plasma miRNA Profiles in Pregnant Women Predict Infant Outcomes following Prenatal Alcohol Exposure.

PLoS One 2016 9;11(11):e0165081. Epub 2016 Nov 9.

Department of Neuroscience and Experimental Therapeutics, Texas A&M Health Science Center, College of Medicine, Bryan, Texas, United States of America.

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) are difficult to diagnose since many heavily exposed infants, at risk for intellectual disability, do not exhibit craniofacial dysmorphology or growth deficits. Consequently, there is a need for biomarkers that predict disability. In both animal models and human studies, alcohol exposure during pregnancy resulted in significant alterations in circulating microRNAs (miRNAs) in maternal blood. In the current study, we asked if changes in plasma miRNAs in alcohol-exposed pregnant mothers, either alone or in conjunction with other clinical variables, could predict infant outcomes. Sixty-eight pregnant women at two perinatal care clinics in western Ukraine were recruited into the study. Detailed health and alcohol consumption histories, and 2nd and 3rd trimester blood samples were obtained. Birth cohort infants were assessed by a geneticist and classified as unexposed (UE), heavily prenatally exposed and affected (HEa) or heavily exposed but apparently unaffected (HEua). MiRNAs were assessed in plasma samples using qRT-PCR arrays. ANOVA models identified 11 miRNAs that were all significantly elevated in maternal plasma from the HEa group relative to HEua and UE groups. In a random forest analysis classification model, a combination of high variance miRNAs, smoking history and socioeconomic status classified membership in HEa and UE groups, with a misclassification rate of 13%. The RFA model also classified 17% of the HEua group as UE-like, whereas 83% were HEa-like, at least at one stage of pregnancy. Collectively our data indicate that maternal plasma miRNAs predict infant outcomes, and may be useful to classify difficult-to-diagnose FASD subpopulations.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0165081PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5102408PMC
July 2017

Chornobyl 30 years later: Radiation, pregnancies, and developmental anomalies in Rivne, Ukraine.

Eur J Med Genet 2017 Jan 30;60(1):2-11. Epub 2016 Sep 30.

Volyn Regional Children's Territoral Medical Center, Lutsk, Volyn, Ukraine.

In the 30 years since the Chornobyl nuclear power plant disaster, there is evidence of persistent levels of incorporated ionizing radiation in adults, children and pregnant women in the surrounding area. Measured levels of Cesium-137 vary by region, and may be influenced by dietary and water sources as well as proximity to nuclear power plants. Since 2000, comprehensive, population-based birth defects monitoring has been performed in selected regions of Ukraine to evaluate trends and to generate hypotheses regarding potential causes of unexplained variations in defect rates. Significantly higher rates of microcephaly, neural tube defects, and microphthalmia have been identified in selected regions of Ukraine collectively known as Polissia compared to adjacent regions collectively termed non-Polissia, and these significantly higher rates were evident particularly in the years 2000-2009. The Polissia regions have also demonstrated higher mean whole body counts of Cesium-137 compared to values in individuals residing in other non-Polissia regions. The potential causal relationship between persistent ionizing radiation pollution and selected congenital anomaly rates supports the need for a more thorough, targeted investigation of the sources of persistent ionizing radiation and the biological plausibility of a potential teratogenic effect.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ejmg.2016.09.019DOI Listing
January 2017

Second-Trimester Ultrasound as a Tool for Early Detection of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders.

Alcohol Clin Exp Res 2016 11 30;40(11):2418-2425. Epub 2016 Sep 30.

Department of Pediatrics, University of California San Diego, La Jolla, California.

Background: Early detection of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs) is desirable to allow earlier and more comprehensive interventions to be initiated for the mother and infant. We examined prenatal ultrasound as an early method of detecting markers of the physical features and neurobehavioral deficits characteristic of FASD.

Methods: A longitudinal cohort of pregnant women in Ukraine was recruited as part of the Collaborative Initiative on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders. Women were enrolled into a moderately to heavy-alcohol-exposed group or a low- or no-alcohol exposure group and were followed to pregnancy outcome. In the second trimester, a fetal ultrasound was performed to measure transverse cerebellar diameter, occipital frontal diameter (OFD), caval-calvarial distance, frontothalamic distance (FTD), interorbital distance (IOD), outer orbital diameter, and orbital diameter (OD). Live born infants received a dysmorphological examination and a neurobehavioral evaluation using the Bayley Scales of Infant Development. These data were used to classify infants with respect to FASD. Comparisons were made on the ultrasound measures between those with and without features of FASD, adjusting for gestational age at ultrasound and maternal smoking.

Results: A total of 233 mother/child dyads were included. Children classified as FASD had significantly longer IOD and lower FTD/IOD, OFD/IOD, and FTD/OD ratios (p < 0.05). Children with a Bayley score <85 had significantly shorter FTD, longer IOD, lower OFD/IOD, and FTD/IOD ratios (p < 0.05). In general, mean differences were small. Ultrasound variables alone predicted <10% of the variance in the FASD outcome.

Conclusions: Some ultrasound measurements were associated with FASD, selected facial features of the disorder, and lower neurobehavioral scores. However, mean differences were relatively small, making it difficult to predict affected children based solely on these measures. It may be advantageous to combine these easily obtained ultrasound measures with other data to aid in identifying high risk for an FASD outcome.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/acer.13232DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5104277PMC
November 2016

Cardiac Orienting Responses Differentiate the Impact of Prenatal Alcohol Exposure in Ukrainian Toddlers.

Alcohol Clin Exp Res 2016 11 21;40(11):2377-2384. Epub 2016 Sep 21.

Department of Pediatrics, University of California San Diego, La Jolla, California.

Background: Prenatal alcohol exposure (PAE) has been found to impact neurophysiological encoding of environmental events negatively in the first year of life but has not been evaluated in older infants or toddlers. Cardiac orienting responses (ORs) collected during a habituation/dishabituation learning paradigm were obtained from 12- to 18-month-olds to assess the impact of PAE beyond the first year of life.

Methods: Participants included women and their toddlers who differed in PAE histories and enrolled in a randomized clinical trial of multivitamin/mineral usage during pregnancy. Those who were randomly assigned to the no intervention group were used for this analysis. The habituation/dishabituation paradigm consisted of 10 habituation and 5 dishabituation trials. Baseline heart rate (HR) was collected for 30 seconds prior to stimulus onset, and responses to the stimuli were assessed by sampling HR for 12 seconds poststimulus onset.

Results: The speed of the OR in response to auditory stimuli in the dishabituation condition was found to be altered as a function of maternal alcohol use around conception. For visual stimuli, positive histories of PAE were predictive of the magnitude but not the speed of the response on habituation and dishabituation trials. A history of binge drinking was associated with reduced magnitude of the OR response on visual encoding trials, and level of alcohol exposure at the time of conception was predictive of the magnitude of the response on visual dishabituation trials.

Conclusions: Cardiac ORs collected in the toddler period were sensitive to the effects of PAE. The magnitude of the OR was more sensitive to the impact of PAE than in previous research with younger infants, and this may be a function of brain maturation. Additional research assessing the predictive utility of using ORs in making decisions about individual risk was recommended.
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http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5073038PMC
http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/acer.13221DOI Listing
November 2016

Assessing the Independent and Joint Effects of Unmedicated Prenatal Depressive Symptoms and Alcohol Consumption in Pregnancy and Infant Neurodevelopmental Outcomes.

Alcohol Clin Exp Res 2016 06 30;40(6):1304-11. Epub 2016 Apr 30.

Department of Pediatrics, University of California, San Diego, San Diego, California.

Background: Prenatal alcohol exposure (PAE) is an established risk factor for neurodevelopmental deficits in the offspring. Prenatal depression has been associated with neurodevelopmental deficits in the offspring, although investigations into unmedicated prenatal depression have been inconsistent. We hypothesized that unmedicated prenatal depressive symptoms would independently and jointly with PAE predict neurodevelopmental outcomes in infant offspring.

Methods: We studied 344 participants from a randomized clinical trial of multivitamin supplements in pregnant women in Ukraine. Women were recruited based upon periconceptional alcohol use and followed up to 12 months postpartum. Prenatal depressive symptoms were assessed at approximately 32 weeks of gestation using the Beck Depression Inventory score. Neurodevelopment was assessed with the Bayley Scales of Infant Development II Mental Development Index (MDI) and Psychomotor Development Index (PDI) at 6 and 12 months postpartum. Generalized linear regression models were constructed to assess the independent and joint effects of prenatal depressive symptoms and PAE in models adjusted for sociodemographic and pregnancy characteristics.

Results: PAE was independently associated with deficits in neurodevelopmental outcomes at 6 and 12 months, however, level of prenatal depressive symptoms was not. We found marginal evidence of synergism of depressive symptoms and PAE, with larger deficits in those with both exposures observed for the PDI-6 months (p = 0.05) and MDI-12 months (p = 0.09). Additionally, there was a suggestion of sexual dimorphism; females had stronger deficits from joint exposures than males (depressive symptom [MDI-6 months] female: -8.28, 95% CI -13.06, -3.49; male: 0.68, 95% CI -4.58, 5.94; p for interaction 0.04). While not statistically significant for the MDI or PDI at 12 months, the trend persisted.

Conclusions: Infants exposed to PAE and prenatal depression may be at an increased risk of neurodevelopmental deficits. Healthcare providers should be aware of this possible synergism in their efforts to mitigate the neurodevelopmental effects of these co-occurring exposures.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/acer.13081DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4889502PMC
June 2016

Elevated congenital anomaly rates and incorporated cesium-137 in the Polissia region of Ukraine.

Birth Defects Res A Clin Mol Teratol 2016 Mar 12;106(3):194-200. Epub 2016 Feb 12.

OMNI-Net for Children International Charitable Fund, Rivne, Ukraine.

Background: Investigations soon after the 1986 Chornobyl (Chernobyl in Russian) accident of exposed populations residing elsewhere in Europe led government and international agencies to conclude that exposures to cesium-137 (Cs-137) were not teratogenic. Our observations of elevated population rates of neural tube defects (NTDs) and microcephaly and microphthalmia (M/M) in the Rivne Province in Ukraine, which were among the highest in Europe, prompted this follow-up investigation inclusive of whole-body counts (WBCs) of Cs-137 among ambulatory patients and pregnant women residing in Polissia, the most polluted region in Rivne.

Methods: Yearly (2000-2012) population rates of NTDs and M/M and WBC patterns of ambulatory patients (2001-2010) and pregnant women (2011-2013) in Polissia and non-Polissia regions of Rivne were analyzed.

Results: The NTD and M/M population rates in Rivne remain elevated and are statistically significantly higher in Polissia than in non-Polissia. The WBCs among residents in Polissia are statistically significantly higher than among those from non-Polissia.

Conclusion: NTD and M/M rates are highest in the Polissia region of Rivne and are among the highest in Europe. In Polissia, the WBCs of Cs-137 are above officially set permissible upper limits. The results are based on aggregate data of NTDs and M/Ms and average WBC values. Further investigations of causality of the high rates of NTDs and M/Ms are needed and urgent strengthening policies and implementations to reduce exposures to teratogens, in particular radioactive nuclides and alcohol, and consumption of folic acid supplements are indicated.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/bdra.23476DOI Listing
March 2016

Dose and Timing of Prenatal Alcohol Exposure and Maternal Nutritional Supplements: Developmental Effects on 6-Month-Old Infants.

Matern Child Health J 2015 Dec;19(12):2605-14

Department of Pediatrics, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, CA, USA.

Objectives: Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders are more common in disadvantaged populations. Environmental factors, like suboptimal nutrition, may potentiate the developmental effects of prenatal alcohol exposure. To evaluate the impact of micronutrients, including choline, on reduction of effects of exposure, we examined timing and dose of alcohol and effects of nutritional supplementation at two OMNI-Net sites in Western Ukraine that included high and low risk individuals.

Methods: Alcohol-using and nondrinking women were randomized to one of three multivitamin/mineral supplement groups: none, multivitamins/minerals (MVM), and multivitamin/minerals plus choline. Children (N = 367) were tested at 6 months with the Bayley Scales of Infant Development (2nd ED) yielding standard scores for Mental Development Index (MDI), Psychomotor Development Index (PDI) and Behavior.

Results: Generalized linear modeling was used: (1) for factorial analysis of effects of alcohol group, multivitamin/minerals, and choline supplementation; and (2) to examine the relationship between amount and timing of alcohol (ounces of absolute alcohol/day [ozAA/day] peri-conception and on average in the second trimester) and MVM supplementation on developmental outcomes while controlling sex, social class, and smoking. MDI was significantly impacted by peri-conceptual alcohol dose (X2(1), p < .001) with more alcohol associated with lower scores and males more negatively affected than females (X2(1), p < .002). Micronutrient supplementation had a protective effect; those receiving supplements performed better ([Formula: see text], p < .005). The PDI motor scores did not differ by group but were affected by peri-conceptual alcohol dose (X2(1), p < .04).

Conclusions For Practice: Multivitamin/mineral supplementation can reduce the negative impact of alcohol use during pregnancy on specific developmental outcomes.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10995-015-1779-xDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4644455PMC
December 2015

Epidemiology of congenital diaphragmatic hernia in Europe: a register-based study.

Arch Dis Child Fetal Neonatal Ed 2015 Mar 19;100(2):F137-44. Epub 2014 Nov 19.

National Registry of Congenital Anomalies, Department of Medical Genetics, Thomayer Hospital, Prague, Czech Republic.

Introduction: Published prevalence rates of congenital diaphragmatic hernia (CDH) vary. This study aims to describe the epidemiology of CDH using data from high-quality, population-based registers belonging to the European Surveillance of Congenital Anomalies (EUROCAT).

Methods: Cases of CDH delivered between 1980 and 2009 notified to 31 EUROCAT registers formed the population-based case series. Prevalence over time was estimated using multilevel Poisson regression, and heterogeneity between registers was evaluated from the random component of the intercept.

Results: There were 3373 CDH cases reported among 12 155 491 registered births. Of 3131 singleton cases, 353 (10.4%) were associated with a chromosomal anomaly, genetic syndrome or microdeletion, 784 (28.2%) were associated with other major structural anomalies. The male to female ratio of CDH cases overall was 1:0.69. Total prevalence was 2.3 (95% CI 2.2 to 2.4) per 10 000 births and 1.6 (95% CI 1.6 to 1.7) for isolated CDH cases. There was a small but significant increase (relative risk (per year)=1.01, 95% credible interval 1.00-1.01; p=0.030) in the prevalence of total CDH over time but there was no significant increase for isolated cases (ie, CDH cases that did not occur with any other congenital anomaly). There was significant variation in total and isolated CDH prevalence between registers. The proportion of cases that survived to 1 week was 69.3% (1392 cases) for total CDH cases and 72.7% (1107) for isolated cases.

Conclusions: This large population-based study found an increase in total CDH prevalence over time. CDH prevalence also varied significantly according to geographical location. No significant association was found with maternal age.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/archdischild-2014-306174DOI Listing
March 2015

Prevalence and predictors of maternal alcohol consumption in 2 regions of Ukraine.

Alcohol Clin Exp Res 2014 Apr;38(4):1012-9

Background: Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders are thought to be a leading cause of developmental disabilities worldwide. However, data are lacking on alcohol use among pregnant women in many countries. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the prevalence and predictors of alcohol consumption by pregnant women in Ukraine.

Methods: Cross-sectional screening of pregnant women was conducted in 2 regions of Ukraine during the recruitment phase of an ongoing clinical study that is part of the Collaborative Initiative on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders. Women attending a routine prenatal visit at 1 of 2 participating regional centers were asked about alcohol consumption. Quantity and frequency of alcoholic beverages consumed in the month around conception and in the most recent month of pregnancy were measured using a standard interview instrument.

Results: Between 2007 and 2012, 11,909 pregnant women were screened on average in the second trimester of pregnancy. Of these, 92.7% reported being ever-drinkers. Among ever-drinkers, 54.8% reported drinking alcohol in the month around conception and 12.9% consumed at least 3 drinks on at least 1 day in that time period. In the most recent month of pregnancy, 46.3% continued to report alcohol use and 9.2% consumed at least 3 drinks per day. Significant predictors of average number of drinks or heavier drinking per day in either time period in pregnancy included lower gravidity, being single, unmarried/living with a partner, or separated, lower maternal education, smoking, younger age at initiation of drinking, and higher score on the TWEAK screening test for harmful drinking.

Conclusions: These findings support the need for education/intervention in women of childbearing age in Ukraine and can help inform targeted interventions for women at risk of an alcohol-exposed pregnancy. The initiation of a standard screening protocol in pregnancy is a step in the right direction.
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http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4024828PMC
http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/acer.12318DOI Listing
April 2014

Blastopathies and microcephaly in a Chornobyl impacted region of Ukraine.

Congenit Anom (Kyoto) 2014 Aug;54(3):125-49

Department of Medical Genetics, College of Medicine, University of South Alabama, Mobile, Alabama, USA; OMNI-Net for Children International Charitable Fund, Rivne, Rivne Province, Ukraine.

This population-based descriptive epidemiology study demonstrates that rates of conjoined twins, teratomas, neural tube defects, microcephaly, and microphthalmia in the Rivne province of Ukraine are among the highest in Europe. The province is 200 km distant from the Chornobyl site and its northern half, a region known as Polissia, is significantly polluted by ionizing radiation. The rates of neural tube defects, microcephaly and microphthalmia in Polissia are statistically significantly higher than in the rest of the province. A survey of at-birth head size showed that values were statistically smaller in males and females born in one Polissia county than among neonates born in the capital city. These observations provide clues for confirmatory and cause-effect prospective investigations. The strength of this study stems from a reliance on international standards prevalent in Europe and a decade-long population-based surveillance of congenital malformations in two distinct large populations. The limitations of this study, as those of other descriptive epidemiology investigations, is that identified cause-effect associations require further assessment by specific prospective investigations designed to address specific teratogenic factors.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/cga.12051DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4233949PMC
August 2014
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