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1.  Prevalence, prenatal diagnosis and clinical features of oculo-auriculo-vertebral spectrum: a registry-based study in Europe 
European Journal of Human Genetics  2014;22(8):1026-1033.
Oculo-auriculo-vertebral spectrum is a complex developmental disorder characterised mainly by anomalies of the ear, hemifacial microsomia, epibulbar dermoids and vertebral anomalies. The aetiology is largely unknown, and the epidemiological data are limited and inconsistent. We present the largest population-based epidemiological study to date, using data provided by the large network of congenital anomalies registries in Europe. The study population included infants diagnosed with oculo-auriculo-vertebral spectrum during the 1990–2009 period from 34 registries active in 16 European countries. Of the 355 infants diagnosed with oculo-auriculo-vertebral spectrum, there were 95.8% (340/355) live born, 0.8% (3/355) fetal deaths, 3.4% (12/355) terminations of pregnancy for fetal anomaly and 1.5% (5/340) neonatal deaths. In 18.9%, there was prenatal detection of anomaly/anomalies associated with oculo-auriculo-vertebral spectrum, 69.7% were diagnosed at birth, 3.9% in the first week of life and 6.1% within 1 year of life. Microtia (88.8%), hemifacial microsomia (49.0%) and ear tags (44.4%) were the most frequent anomalies, followed by atresia/stenosis of external auditory canal (25.1%), diverse vertebral (24.3%) and eye (24.3%) anomalies. There was a high rate (69.5%) of associated anomalies of other organs/systems. The most common were congenital heart defects present in 27.8% of patients. The prevalence of oculo-auriculo-vertebral spectrum, defined as microtia/ear anomalies and at least one major characteristic anomaly, was 3.8 per 100 000 births. Twinning, assisted reproductive techniques and maternal pre-pregnancy diabetes were confirmed as risk factors. The high rate of different associated anomalies points to the need of performing an early ultrasound screening in all infants born with this disorder.
PMCID: PMC4350601  PMID: 24398798
oculo-auriculo-vertebral spectrum; epidemiology; congenital anomalies; Europe
2.  Epidemiology of hypospadias in Europe: a registry-based study 
World Journal of Urology  2015;33(12):2159-2167.
Hypospadias is a common congenital malformation. The prevalence of hypospadias has a large geographical variation, and recent studies have reported both increasing and decreasing temporal trends. It is unclear whether hypospadias prevalence is associated with maternal age.
To analyze the prevalence and trends of total hypospadias, isolated hypospadias, hypospadias with multiple congenital anomalies, hypospadias with a known cause, and hypospadias severity subtypes in Europe over a 10-year period and to investigate whether maternal age is associated with hypospadias.
We included all children with hypospadias born from 2001 to 2010 who were registered in 23 EUROCAT registries. Information on the total number of births and maternal age distribution for the registry population was also provided. We analyzed the total prevalence of hypospadias and relative risks by maternal age.
From 2001 to 2010, 10,929 hypospadias cases were registered in 5,871,855 births, yielding a total prevalence of 18.61 per 10,000 births. Prevalence varied considerably between different registries, probably due to differences in ascertainment of hypospadias cases. No significant temporal trends were observed with the exceptions of an increasing trend for anterior and posterior hypospadias and a decreasing trend for unspecified hypospadias. After adjusting for registry effects, maternal age was not significantly associated with hypospadias.
Total hypospadias prevalence was stable in 23 EUROCAT registries from 2001 to 2010 and was not significantly influenced by maternal age.
PMCID: PMC4655014  PMID: 25712311
Ascertainment; Congenital anomaly registers; Epidemiology; Hypospadias; Maternal age; Prevalence
3.  Holt Oram syndrome: a registry-based study in Europe 
Holt-Oram syndrome (HOS) is an autosomal dominant disorder characterised by upper limb anomalies and congenital heart defects. We present epidemiological and clinical aspects of HOS patients using data from EUROCAT (European Surveillance of Congenital Anomalies) registries.
The study was based on data collected during 1990–2011 by 34 registries. The registries are population-based and use multiple sources of information to collect data on all types of birth using standardized definitions, methodology and coding. Diagnostic criteria for inclusion in the study were the presence of radial ray abnormalities and congenital heart disease (CHD), or the presence of either radial ray anomaly or CHD, with family history of HOS.
A total of 73 cases of HOS were identified, including 11 (15.1%) TOPFA and 62 (84.9%) LB. Out of 73 HOS cases, 30.8% (20/65) were suspected prenatally, 55.4% (36/65) at birth, 10.7% (7/65) in the first week of life, and 3.1% (2/65) in the first year of life. The prenatal detection rate was 39.2% (20/51), with no significant change over the study period. In 55% (11/20) of prenatally detected cases, parents decided to terminate pregnancy. Thumb anomalies were reported in all cases. Agenesis/hypoplasia of radius was present in 49.2% (30/61), ulnar aplasia/hypoplasia in 24.6% (15/61) and humerus hypoplasia/phocomelia in 42.6% (26/61) of patients. Congenital heart defects (CHD) were recorded in 78.7% (48/61) of patients. Isolated septal defects were present in 54.2 (26/48), while 25% (12/48) of patients had complex/severe CHD. The mean prevalence of HOS diagnosed prenatally or in the early years of life in European registries was 0.7 per 100,000 births or 1:135,615 births.
HOS is a rare genetic condition showing regional variation in its prevalence. It is often missed prenatally, in spite of the existence of major structural anomalies. When discovered, parents in 45% (9/20) of cases opt for the continuation of pregnancy. Although a quarter of patients have severe CHD, the overall first week survival is very good, which is important information for counselling purposes.
PMCID: PMC4245183  PMID: 25344219
Holt Oram syndrome; Congenital anomalies; Prenatal diagnosis; Epidemiology; Europe
4.  Twenty-year trends in the prevalence of Down syndrome and other trisomies in Europe: impact of maternal age and prenatal screening 
This study examines trends and geographical differences in total and live birth prevalence of trisomies 21, 18 and 13 with regard to increasing maternal age and prenatal diagnosis in Europe. Twenty-one population-based EUROCAT registries covering 6.1 million births between 1990 and 2009 participated. Trisomy cases included live births, fetal deaths from 20 weeks gestational age and terminations of pregnancy for fetal anomaly. We present correction to 20 weeks gestational age (ie, correcting early terminations for the probability of fetal survival to 20 weeks) to allow for artefactual screening-related differences in total prevalence. Poisson regression was used. The proportion of births in the population to mothers aged 35+ years in the participating registries increased from 13% in 1990 to 19% in 2009. Total prevalence per 10 000 births was 22.0 (95% CI 21.7–22.4) for trisomy 21, 5.0 (95% CI 4.8–5.1) for trisomy 18 and 2.0 (95% CI 1.9–2.2) for trisomy 13; live birth prevalence was 11.2 (95% CI 10.9–11.5) for trisomy 21, 1.04 (95% CI 0.96–1.12) for trisomy 18 and 0.48 (95% CI 0.43–0.54) for trisomy 13. There was an increase in total and total corrected prevalence of all three trisomies over time, mainly explained by increasing maternal age. Live birth prevalence remained stable over time. For trisomy 21, there was a three-fold variation in live birth prevalence between countries. The rise in maternal age has led to an increase in the number of trisomy-affected pregnancies in Europe. Live birth prevalence has remained stable overall. Differences in prenatal screening and termination between countries lead to wide variation in live birth prevalence.
PMCID: PMC3522199  PMID: 22713804
trisomy 21; trisomy 18; trisomy 13; trends; maternal age; prenatal screening
5.  Rare chromosome abnormalities, prevalence and prenatal diagnosis rates from population-based congenital anomaly registers in Europe 
The aim of this study is to quantify the prevalence and types of rare chromosome abnormalities (RCAs) in Europe for 2000–2006 inclusive, and to describe prenatal diagnosis rates and pregnancy outcome. Data held by the European Surveillance of Congenital Anomalies database were analysed on all the cases from 16 population-based registries in 11 European countries diagnosed prenatally or before 1 year of age, and delivered between 2000 and 2006. Cases were all unbalanced chromosome abnormalities and included live births, fetal deaths from 20 weeks gestation and terminations of pregnancy for fetal anomaly. There were 10 323 cases with a chromosome abnormality, giving a total birth prevalence rate of 43.8/10 000 births. Of these, 7335 cases had trisomy 21,18 or 13, giving individual prevalence rates of 23.0, 5.9 and 2.3/10 000 births, respectively (53, 13 and 5% of all reported chromosome errors, respectively). In all, 473 cases (5%) had a sex chromosome trisomy, and 778 (8%) had 45,X, giving prevalence rates of 2.0 and 3.3/10 000 births, respectively. There were 1 737 RCA cases (17%), giving a prevalence of 7.4/10 000 births. These included triploidy, other trisomies, marker chromosomes, unbalanced translocations, deletions and duplications. There was a wide variation between the registers in both the overall prenatal diagnosis rate of RCA, an average of 65% (range 5–92%) and the prevalence of RCA (range 2.4–12.9/10 000 births). In all, 49% were liveborn. The data provide the prevalence of families currently requiring specialised genetic counselling services in the perinatal period for these conditions and, for some, long-term care.
PMCID: PMC3330224  PMID: 22234154
rare chromosome; prevalence; prenatal diagnosis; Europe
6.  Autism, language and communication in children with sex chromosome trisomies 
Archives of disease in childhood  2010;96(10):954-959.
Sex chromosome trisomies (SCTs) are found on amniocentesis in 2.3–3.7 per 1000 same-sex births, yet there is a limited database on which to base a prognosis. Autism has been described in postnatally diagnosed cases of Klinefelter syndrome (XXY karyotype), but the prevalence in non-referred samples, and in other trisomies, is unclear. The authors recruited the largest sample including all three SCTs to be reported to date, including children identified on prenatal screening, to clarify this issue.
Parents of children with a SCT were recruited either via prenatal screening or via a parental support group, to give a sample of 58 XXX, 19 XXY and 58 XYY cases. Parents were interviewed using the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales and completed questionnaires about the communicative development of children with SCTs and their siblings (42 brothers and 26 sisters).
Rates of language and communication problems were high in all three trisomies. Diagnoses of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) were found in 2/19 cases of XXY (11%) and 11/58 XYY (19%). After excluding those with an ASD diagnosis, communicative profiles indicative of mild autistic features were common, although there was wide individual variation.
Autistic features have not previously been remarked upon in studies of non-referred samples with SCTs, yet the rate is substantially above population levels in this sample, even when attention is restricted to early-identified cases. The authors hypothesise that X-linked and Y-linked neuroligins may play a significant role in the aetiology of communication impairments and ASD.
PMCID: PMC3182523  PMID: 20656736
7.  Intrauterine exposure to carbamazepine and specific congenital malformations: systematic review and case-control study 
Objective To identify specific major congenital malformations associated with use of carbamazepine in the first trimester of pregnancy.
Design A review of all published cohort studies to identify key indications and a population based case-control study to test these indications.
Setting Review of PubMed, Web of Science, and Embase for papers about carbamazepine exposure in the first trimester of pregnancy and specific malformations, and the EUROCAT Antiepileptic Study Database, including data from 19 European population based congenital anomaly registries, 1995-2005.
Participants The literature review covered eight cohort studies of 2680 pregnancies with carbamazepine monotherapy exposure, and the EUROCAT dataset included 98 075 registrations of malformations covering over 3.8 million births.
Main outcome measures Overall prevalence for a major congenital malformation after exposure to carbamazepine monotherapy in the first trimester. Odds ratios for malformations with exposure to carbamazepine among cases (five types of malformation identified in the literature review) compared with two groups of controls: other non-chromosomal registrations of malformations and chromosomal syndromes.
Results The literature review yielded an overall prevalence for a major congenital malformation of 3.3% (95% confidence interval 2.7 to 4.2) after exposure to carbamazepine monotherapy in the first trimester. In 131 registrations of malformations, the fetus had been exposed to carbamazepine monotherapy. Spina bifida was the only specific major congenital malformation significantly associated with exposure to carbamazepine monotherapy (odds ratio 2.6 (95% confidence interval 1.2 to 5.3) compared with no antiepileptic drug), but the risk was smaller for carbamazepine than for valproic acid (0.2, 0.1 to 0.6). There was no evidence for an association with total anomalous pulmonary venous return (no cases with carbamazepine exposure), cleft lip (with or without palate) (0.2, 0.0 to 1.3), diaphragmatic hernia (0.9, 0.1 to 6.6), or hypospadias (0.7, 0.3 to 1.6) compared with no exposure to antiepileptic drugs. Further exploratory analysis suggested a higher risk of single ventricle and atrioventricular septal defect.
Conclusion Carbamazepine teratogenicity is relatively specific to spina bifida, though the risk is less than with valproic acid. Despite the large dataset, there was not enough power to detect moderate risks for some rare major congenital malformations.
PMCID: PMC2996546  PMID: 21127116
8.  Chlorination Disinfection By-Products and Risk of Congenital Anomalies in England and Wales 
Environmental Health Perspectives  2007;116(2):216-222.
Increased risk of various congenital anomalies has been reported to be associated with trihalomethane (THM) exposure in the water supply.
We conducted a registry-based study to determine the relationship between THM concentrations and the risk of congenital anomalies in England and Wales.
We obtained congenital anomaly data from the National Congenital Anomalies System, regional registries, and the national terminations registry; THM data were obtained from water companies. Total THM (< 30, 30 to < 60, ≥60 μg/L), total brominated exposure (< 10, 10 to < 20, ≥20 μg/L), and bromoform exposure (< 2, 2 to < 4, ≥4 μg/L) were modeled at the place of residence for the first trimester of pregnancy. We included 2,605,226 live births, stillbirths, and terminations with 22,828 cases of congenital anomalies. Analyses using fixed- and random-effects models were performed for broadly defined groups of anomalies (cleft palate/lip, abdominal wall, major cardiac, neural tube, urinary and respiratory defects), a more restricted set of anomalies with better ascertainment, and for isolated and multiple anomalies. Data were adjusted for sex, maternal age, and socioeconomic status.
We found no statistically significant trends across exposure categories for either the broadly defined or more restricted sets of anomalies. For the restricted set of anomalies with isolated defects, there were significant (p < 0.05) excess risks in the high-exposure categories of total THMs for ventricular septal defects [odds ratio (OR) = 1.43; 95% confidence interval (CI), 1.00–2.04] and of bromoform for major cardiovascular defects and gastroschisis (OR = 1.18; 95% CI, 1.00–1.39; and OR = 1.38; 95% CI, 1.00–1.92, respectively).
In this large national study we found little evidence for a relationship between THM concentrations in drinking water and risk of congenital anomalies.
PMCID: PMC2235225  PMID: 18288321
chlorination; congenital anomalies; disinfection by-products; trihalomethanes
9.  Geographic variation and localised clustering of congenital anomalies in Great Britain 
Environmental pollution as a cause of congenital anomalies is sometimes suspected because of clustering of anomalies in areas of higher exposure. This highlights questions around spatial heterogeneity (clustering) in congenital anomaly rates. If spatial variation is endemic, then any one specific cluster is less remarkable, though the presence of uncontrolled geographically clustered risk factors is suggested. If rates are relatively homogeneous across space other than around specific hazards, then evidence for these hazards causing the clusters is strengthened. We sought to estimate the extent of spatial heterogeneity in congenital anomaly rates in the United Kingdom.
The study population covered about one million births from five registers in Britain from 1991–1999. We estimated heterogeneity across four geographical levels: register area, hospital catchment, electoral ward, and enumeration district, using a negative binomial regression model. We also sought clusters using a circular scan statistic.
Congenital anomaly rates clearly varied across register areas and hospital catchments (p < 0.001), but not below this level (p > 0.2). Adjusting for socioeconomic deprivation and maternal age made little difference to the extent of geographical variation for most congenital anomaly subtypes. The two most significant circular clusters (of four ano-rectal atresias and six congenital heart diseases) contained two or more siblings.
The variation in rates between registers and hospital catchment area may have resulted in part from differences in case ascertainment, and this should be taken into account in geographical epidemiological studies of environmental exposures. The absence of evidence for variation below this level should be interpreted cautiously in view of the low power of general heterogeneity tests. Nevertheless, the data suggest that strong localised clusters in congenital anomalies are uncommon, so clusters around specific putative environmental hazards are remarkable when observed. Negative binomial models applied at successive hierarchical levels provide an approach of intermediate complexity to characterising geographical heterogeneity.
PMCID: PMC1939702  PMID: 17617898
10.  Retrospective audit of different antenatal screening policies for Down's syndrome in eight district general hospitals in one health region 
BMJ : British Medical Journal  2002;325(7354):15.
To compare the effectiveness of different screening policies for the antenatal detection of Down's syndrome.
Retrospective six year survey.
Maternity units of eight districts.
Women who completed their pregnancies between 1 January 1994 and 31 December 1999 (155 501 deliveries).
Main outcome measures
Cases of Down's syndrome identified before 24 weeks' gestation.
335 cases of Down's syndrome were identified, 323 in continuing pregnancies or liveborn children. Of these, 171 were identified antenatally. Seven different screening policies were used, in three principal groups: serum screening offered to all mothers, maternal age with serum screening or nuchal translucency available to limited groups, and maternal age combined with anomaly scans. The districts that used serum screening detected 57%, those using maternal age plus serum or nuchal translucency screening 52%, and those using a maternal age of ⩾35 and anomaly scans detected 54%. The least successful district, which offered amniocentesis only to women aged over 37 years, detected only 31%. If amniocentesis had been offered from 35 years, as in all other districts, the detection rate would have risen to 54%. Across the region 15% (range 12-20%) of pregnant women were 35 years or more at delivery, and 58% (33-69%) of infants with Down's syndrome were born to women in this age range.
Current additional serum or nuchal translucency screening techniques for antenatal detection of Down's syndrome are less advantageous than previously supposed. More pregnant women were aged over 35 than has been presumed in statistical models used in demonstration projects of serum screening and, as a result, the proportion of affected fetuses in this age group is much greater than predicted.
What is already known on this topicSerum screening for Down's syndrome has been presumed to be more effective than screening by maternal ageThere have been no controlled studies comparing serum screening with screening by maternal age, and its greater efficacy has been presumed from mathematical modelling, which assumed that only 5% of pregnant women were aged over 35 yearsThe modelling predicted that only 20-30% of cases of Down's syndrome would arise in women aged over 35 and made no allowance for the effects of routine anomaly scanningWhat this study adds15% of pregnant women were aged over 35 years, more than double the 5-7% presumed in statistical models of screening58% of babies with Down's syndrome were born to women aged 35 years or moreSerum screening and nuchal scanning did not achieve significantly higher antenatal detection rates of Down's syndrome than the use of maternal age and routine anomaly scanning
PMCID: PMC116665  PMID: 12098722
11.  Six year survey of screening for Down's syndrome by maternal age and mid-trimester ultrasound scans 
BMJ : British Medical Journal  2000;320(7235):606-610.
To assess the effectiveness of antenatal screening for Down's syndrome by maternal age and routine mid-pregnancy ultrasound scanning.
Retrospective six year survey.
Maternity units of a district general hospital.
Pregnant women booked for delivery in hospital between 1 January 1993 and 31 December 1998.
Main outcome measures
All cases of Down's syndrome occurring in district identified from regional congenital anomaly register and cytogenetic laboratory records. Women's case notes were examined to identify indication for karyotyping, gestation at diagnosis, and outcome of pregnancy.
31 259 deliveries occurred during study period, and 57 cases of Down's syndrome were identified, four in failed pregnancies and 53 in ongoing pregnancies or in neonates. The analysis was confined to ongoing pregnancies or liveborn children. Invasive antenatal tests were performed in 6.6% (2053/31 259), and 68% (95% confidence interval 56% to 80%) of cases of Down's syndrome were detected antenatally, giving a positive predictive value of 1.8%. There were 17 undetected cases, and in seven of these the women had declined an offer of invasive testing. In women aged less than 35 years the detection rate was 53% (30% to 76%). Most of the cases detected in younger women followed identification of ultrasound anomalies.
The overall detection rate was considerably higher than assumed in demonstration projects for serum screening. As a result, the benefits of serum screening are much less than supposed. Before any new methods to identify Down's syndrome are introduced, such as nuchal translucency or first trimester serum screening, the techniques should be tested in properly controlled trials.
Key messagesSerum screening for Down's syndrome has never been compared with screening by maternal age in a controlled trialThis study examined the effectiveness of screening by maternal age in combination with mid-trimester ultrasound scanningThe overall detection rate was 68%, considerably more effective than assumed in demonstration projects of serum screeningThe benefits of serum screening, compared with screening by maternal age in conjunction with routine fetal anomaly scanning, may be much less than supposedA higher standard of evidence should be demanded before proposed new screening methods are adopted
PMCID: PMC27301  PMID: 10698877
12.  Exome sequencing identifies DYNC2H1 mutations as a common cause of asphyxiating thoracic dystrophy (Jeune syndrome) without major polydactyly, renal or retinal involvement 
Journal of Medical Genetics  2013;50(5):309-323.
Jeune asphyxiating thoracic dystrophy (JATD) is a rare, often lethal, recessively inherited chondrodysplasia characterised by shortened ribs and long bones, sometimes accompanied by polydactyly, and renal, liver and retinal disease. Mutations in intraflagellar transport (IFT) genes cause JATD, including the IFT dynein-2 motor subunit gene DYNC2H1. Genetic heterogeneity and the large DYNC2H1 gene size have hindered JATD genetic diagnosis.
Aims and methods
To determine the contribution to JATD we screened DYNC2H1 in 71 JATD patients JATD patients combining SNP mapping, Sanger sequencing and exome sequencing.
Results and conclusions
We detected 34 DYNC2H1 mutations in 29/71 (41%) patients from 19/57 families (33%), showing it as a major cause of JATD especially in Northern European patients. This included 13 early protein termination mutations (nonsense/frameshift, deletion, splice site) but no patients carried these in combination, suggesting the human phenotype is at least partly hypomorphic. In addition, 21 missense mutations were distributed across DYNC2H1 and these showed some clustering to functional domains, especially the ATP motor domain. DYNC2H1 patients largely lacked significant extra-skeletal involvement, demonstrating an important genotype–phenotype correlation in JATD. Significant variability exists in the course and severity of the thoracic phenotype, both between affected siblings with identical DYNC2H1 alleles and among individuals with different alleles, which suggests the DYNC2H1 phenotype might be subject to modifier alleles, non-genetic or epigenetic factors. Assessment of fibroblasts from patients showed accumulation of anterograde IFT proteins in the ciliary tips, confirming defects similar to patients with other retrograde IFT machinery mutations, which may be of undervalued potential for diagnostic purposes.
PMCID: PMC3627132  PMID: 23456818
Clinical Genetics; Molecular Genetics; Developmental; Diagnostics; Genetic Screening/Counselling

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