Blood Spot Screening Shows Promise for Identifying Newborns Affected by Prenatal Alcohol Exposure

A simple screening test could help identify infants at risk of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD), according to a report in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research. Prenatal exposure to alcohol can cause a wide range of lifelong physical, behavioral, and cognitive disabilities, encompassed by the umbrella term FASD. Identifying babies at risk for FASD has previously relied on maternal self-reports of drinking in pregnancy; however, this can be unreliable, as women may under-report their drinking because of recall bias or fear of stigma. Recently, biological markers have been identified that can provide more objective data on prenatal alcohol exposure and supplement information from maternal self-reports. One such biomarker, phosphatidylethanol (PEth), is a direct marker of alcohol metabolism that can indicate exposure with a high level of accuracy, and can be simply measured in newborns (and their mothers) using minimally invasive methods.

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