Center Researchers Provide More Accurate Estimates of FASD in USFebruary 06, 2018
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) are costly, life-long disabilities that are 100% preventable, but estimates of how commonly they occur have been outdated and based on small, non-diverse samples. Not any more! With funding from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and working with colleagues at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill and the University of New Mexico, our experts recently published research that provides an updated estimate of how common FASD are in the United States, including right here in Southern California. What did we find? FASD are more common than previously thought, and may be as common as (and in some cases, more common than) autism. The study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
To find out how common Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) are, our research team collaborated with other researchers to evaluate first-grade children in 4 regions of the United States. A total of 6,639 children were assessed on their physical growth, key facial features, and their cognitive and behavioral development, and their mothers were interviewed about alcohol use during their pregnancy with the participating child. Across the 4 study regions, we found that about 1% to 5% of children were estimated to have FASD. This was the most conservative estimate and assumed that no additional cases of FASD would have been found in children who did not participate in the study. But when we applied an alternate approach that assumed the prevalence of FASD that we found in participating children would be the same in non-participating children in each community, the estimated prevalence of FASD was even higher, ranging from about 3% to 10% of children.
So what does this mean? These estimates suggest that harmful levels of prenatal alcohol exposure are common in the U.S. today; they also highlight the public health burden due to FASD. A well-known developmental disorder, Autism Spectrum Disorders, is estimated to affect about 1.5% of children; our study suggests that FASD may be just as common as, and in some cases more common than, autism! According to Dr. George Koob, the director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, “FASD is a leading cause of developmental disabilities worldwide. Understanding the prevalence of FASD in the U.S. is needed to determine the public health burden of FASD and to identify the need for resources to treat the disorders. These findings underscore the need for targeted programs for children with FASD and for interventions to prevent alcohol use during pregnancy.
Nine Months Matter Public Awareness Campaign Launches to Promote Alcohol-Free PregnanciesOctober 23, 2017
UC San Diego’s Center for Better Beginnings and the newly formed volunteer task force, Better Beginnings Coalition, announce the launch of Nine Months Matter Advocacy Campaign—a public awareness event to alert the community that no amount of alcohol during pregnancy is safe. Nine Months Matter will educate the community on the effects of alcohol on a developing baby with the goal to reduce the number of children born in the U.S. with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) by 80% by the year 2025. The campaign kicked off on September 30th at the La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club with Dr. Kenneth Lyons Jones, Center for Better Beginnings Co-Director, Dr. Miguel del Campo, Center for Better Beginnings Faculty Member and founding member of the European FASD Alliance, and Judge Marian Gaston with the Superior Court of San Diego County. The event was sponsored by the Morrison and Foerster Foundation and Quest Diagnostics.
In 1973 Dr. Jones and his mentor Dr. David Smith described Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and made the connection between brain injury in newborns and alcohol consumed during pregnancy. Children born with FASD have social, educational and behavioral disabilities. In school, these children have severe learning disabilities. In addition, they have a difficult time assessing right from wrong and don’t understand consequences; as a result, these children and young adults unfortunately often end up in the legal system.
Research has shown consuming alcohol during pregnancy is more dangerous to a developing baby than cocaine, heroin or methamphetamine. Misinformation is common; many times women are told by their physicians that having a drink or two while pregnant is safe. However, alcohol crosses the placenta and there is no time during pregnancy when it is safe to drink because the brain is constantly developing.
If you would like to join the Better Beginnings Coalition, contact campaign chair Mary Reynolds at [email protected]. Visit Nine Months Matter for more information or follow on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/ninemonthsmatter/.
Risk for Developmental Delay Following Prenatal Alcohol Exposure May Be Detectable in Baby’s Heart Rate PatternJuly 28, 2017
Working with colleagues at the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering and elsewhere, our experts recently published research suggesting that an early screen looking at certain changes in a baby’s heart rate pattern, called cardiac orienting response (COR), may be a better early predictor for developmental delay following prenatal alcohol exposure (PAE) that standardized developmental testing. Why is this important? The effects of PAE on a child’s development often are not diagnosed until the child begins to struggle in school, and standardized tests for developmental delay are often costly and labor-intensive. An easy and effective screening tool like COR could make it possible to identify and treat these children much earlier in life while their brains are still developing. The study was published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.
Mommy’s Milk Lands Funding to Study Marijuana Use During LactationJune 08, 2017
One substance of rapidly growing public health interest is marijuana. With increasing access to legal recreational marijuana in the U.S., the question of the safety of its use during breastfeeding has risen in prominence. Nearly 11% of women who are either pregnant or breastfeeding use marijuana; however, there are insufficient data on marijuana use during pregnancy and lactation or the potential developmental consequences for exposed children.
In response to the pervasive lack of data in this area, Mommy’s Milk has been awarded a three-year $110,000 grant from the Gerber Foundation to measure the concentration of cannabinoids (the various components of the Cannabis sativa plant) in human milk and to examine selected infant health related outcomes.
This work will begin to fill an important gap in public health knowledge, and will ultimately help support clinical guidance and education regarding marijuana use during lactation for obstetricians and pediatricians alike.
Mommy’s Milk was established in 2014 at the University of California San Diego’s Center for Better Beginnings with support from Rady Children’s Hospital, San Diego. It is a national resource for multidisciplinary researchers seeking to study various aspects of breast milk in relation to health, disease and medication exposures. To date, 530 breast milk samples are stored and available for research purposes.
Study Principal Investigator Contact: Dr. Christina D. Chambers, 858-246-1704, chchambers[email protected]
Study Manager Contact: Kerri Bertrand, 858-246-1713, [email protected]
What Does Congenital Zika Virus Look Like?April 19, 2017
Miguel del Campo, MD, PhD, associate professor at UC San Diego’s Center for Better Beginnings and dysmorphologist for MotherToBaby, describes the set of observable characteristics of the Zika virus in a new paper published in the American Journal of Medical Genetics.
Researchers Develop Potential Blood Test for FASDNovember 09, 2016
Working with colleagues at the Texas A&M College of Medicine and the Omni-Net Birth Defects Prevention Program in Ukraine, our experts identified a blood test that may help predict how severely a baby will be affected by alcohol exposure during pregnancy. Published in the journal PLOS ONE, the findings could facilitate early intervention to improve the health of infants and children who were prenatally exposed to alcohol.
1st Annual Walkfest for Alcohol-Free PregnanciesSeptember 01, 2016
UC San Diego’s Center for Better Beginnings, SoCal NOFAS, and the Rady Children’s Hospital Auxiliary are raising awareness about the effects of alcohol on a developing baby through the community event, Nine Months Matter: Walkfest for Healthy, Alcohol-Free Pregnancy.
Why is a yearly event dedicated to alcohol-free pregnancies necessary? Because Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders are 100% preventable by abstaining from alcohol while pregnant.
CDC Recommends MotherToBabyAugust 22, 2016
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends MotherToBaby as a go-to resource for information on the Zika virus in pregnancy. Families can speak to an information specialist about a possible Zika virus infection or diagnosis. As part of the MotherToBaby network, our MotherToBaby California experts are available by phone, email or live-chat for free services in English or Spanish.
MotherToBaby has been a long-standing resource recommended by the CDC on medication and other exposures in pregnancy and breastfeeding, and we are proud to stand together in the fight against Zika.
How Can We Best Reach Moms at Risk for FASD?July 21, 2016
What can we do to reach women at risk of drinking alcohol during pregnancy?
Annika Montag, PhD, a postdoctoral scholar at UC San Diego’s Center for Better Beginnings, published a paper on this topic in the International Journal of Women’s Health. According to Dr. Montag, “This review explores the pros and cons of three common approaches used to identify women at risk for having a child with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). We found that a combination of two approaches was most effective to reach at-risk women: a self-assessment to obtain a report from the woman about her alcohol consumption plus biomarker screenings to pinpoint genetic predisposition to alcohol’s harmful effects.”
World Renowned Experts Discuss Zika Risks, Mechanisms & PreventionJuly 01, 2016
UC San Diego’s Center for Better Beginnings hosted a special Zika virus symposium on Friday, July 1, 2016. The symposium aimed to educate medical professionals, researchers and public health officials on the current status of the microcephaly epidemic caused by the Zika virus, how Zika can disrupt fetal brain development, and the mechanisms of the virus that could impact immunity and drug discovery.
“We want the community to hear first-hand the experience of Brazil in battling this epidemic, and hear what we at UCSD are doing to help,” said Miguel del Campo, MD, PhD, associate clinical professor at UC San Diego Center for Better Beginnings and medical geneticist at Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego who traveled to Brazil to examine babies born with Zika microcephaly.
Symposium presenters included del Campo; Brazilian scientist Lavinia Schuler-Faccini, MD, PhD; and UCSD professors Alysson Muotri, PhD, and Tariq Rana, PhD. Schuler-Faccini is lead author of one of the first ground-breaking studies in Brazil to examine the association between the Zika virus in pregnant women and microcephaly in their babies, and is President of the Brazilian Society of Medical Genetics (Sociedade Brasileira de Genetica Medica).
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