News: Meconium markers may point to fetal alcohol risks

May 1, 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.

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 in advance of publication in the Journal of Pediatrics.

Jennifer Peterson, MD, 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 nonoxidative 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.

Peterson J, Kirchner HL, Xue W, et al. Fatty Acid Ethyl Esters in Meconium are Associated with Poorer Neurodevelopmental Outcomes to Two Years of Age. J Ped. 2008. doi:10.1016/j.jpeds.2007.11.009.