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1.  Methods for Surveillance of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome: The Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Surveillance Network II (FASSNetII) – Arizona, Colorado, New York, 2009 - 2014 
Surveillance of fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) is important for monitoring the effects of prenatal alcohol exposure and describing the public health burden of this preventable disorder. Building on the infrastructure of the Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Surveillance Network (FASSNet, 1997-2002), in 2009 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention awarded five-year cooperative agreements to three states, Arizona, Colorado, and New York, to conduct population-based surveillance of FAS. The Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Surveillance Network II (FASSNetII, 2009-2014) developed a surveillance case definition based on three clinical criteria: characteristic facial features, central nervous system abnormalities, and growth deficiency. FASSNetII modified the FASSNet methods in three important ways: 1) estimation of a period prevalence rather than birth prevalence; 2) surveillance of FAS among school-age children (ages 7-9 years) to better document the central nervous system abnormalities that are not apparent at birth or during infancy; and 3) implementation of an expert clinical review of abstracted data for probable and confirmed cases classified through a computerized algorithm. FASSNetII abstracted data from multiple sources including birth records, medical records from child development centers or other specialty clinics, and administrative databases such as hospital discharge and Medicaid. One challenge of FASSNetII was its limited access to non-medical records. Therefore, the FAS prevalence that could be estimated was that of the population identified through an encounter with the healthcare system. Clinical and public health programs that identify children affected by FAS provide critical information for targeting preventive, medical and educational services in this vulnerable population.
PMCID: PMC4484746  PMID: 25761572
Birth defects; clinical review; developmental disabilities; fetal alcohol syndrome; population-based surveillance
2.  Prevalence of Duchenne and Becker Muscular Dystrophies in the United States 
Pediatrics  2015;135(3):513-521.
To estimate prevalence of childhood-onset Duchenne and Becker muscular dystrophies (DBMD) in 6 sites in the United States by race/ethnicity and phenotype (Duchenne muscular dystrophy [DMD] or Becker muscular dystrophy [BMD]).
In 2002, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention established the Muscular Dystrophy Surveillance, Tracking, and Research Network (MD STARnet) to conduct longitudinal, population-based surveillance and research of DBMD in the United States. Six sites conducted active, multiple-source case finding and record abstraction to identify MD STARnet cases born January 1982 to December 2011. We used cross-sectional analyses to estimate prevalence of DBMD per 10 000 boys, ages 5 to 9 years, for 4 quinquennia (1991–1995, 1996–2000, 2001–2005, and 2006–2010) and prevalence per 10 000 male individuals, ages 5 to 24 years, in 2010. Prevalence was also estimated by race/ethnicity and phenotype.
Overall, 649 cases resided in an MD STARnet site during $1 quinquennia. Prevalence estimates per 10 000 boys, ages 5 to 9 years, were 1.93, 2.05, 2.04, and 1.51, respectively, for 1991–1995, 1996–2000, 2001–2005, and 2006–2010. Prevalence tended to be higher for Hispanic individuals than non-Hispanic white or black individuals, and higher for DMD than BMD. In 2010, prevalence of DBMD was 1.38 per 10 000 male individuals, ages 5 to 24 years.
We present population-based prevalence estimates for DBMD in 6 US sites. Prevalence differed by race/ethnicity, suggesting potential cultural and socioeconomic influences in the diagnosis of DBMD. Prevalence also was higher for DMD than BMD. Continued longitudinal surveillance will permit us to examine racial/ethnic and socioeconomic differences in treatment and outcomes for MD STARnet cases.
PMCID: PMC4477633  PMID: 25687144
3.  Eliciting parental support for the use of newborn blood spots for pediatric research 
Biomarkers of exposures such as infection or environmental chemicals can be measured in small volumes of blood extracted from newborn dried blood spots (DBS) underscoring their potential utility for population-based research. However, few studies have evaluated the feasibility and utility of this resource; particularly the factors associated with parental consent, and the ability to retrieve banked samples with sufficient remaining volume for epidemiologic research.
At 8 months postpartum, 5,034 mothers of infants born (2008–2010) in New York (57 counties excluding New York City) were asked to consent for the use of residual DBS for the quantification of cytokines and environmental chemicals. Mothers were part of the Upstate KIDS study, a longitudinal birth cohort designed to evaluate child development through 3 years of age. Information on parental and infant characteristics was obtained from birth certificates and maternal report at 4 months postpartum. Multivariate logistic regression was used to identify factors associated with parental consent and with successful retrieval of DBS.
Sixty-two percent (n = 3125) of parents consented. Factors significantly associated with consent included non-Hispanic ethnicity (odds ratio 2.04; 95 % CI: 1.43–2.94), parity (1.29; 1.05–1.57), maternal obesity (1.42; 1.11–1.80) and reported alcohol use during pregnancy (1.51; 1.12–2.06). However, these associations corresponded to small absolute differences in proportions (4 to 8 %), suggesting that the two groups remained comparable. Infant characteristics such as preterm delivery did not significantly differ by consent status among singletons and only ventilator use (OR 2.39; 95 % CI: 1.06–5.41) remained borderline significant among twins in adjusted analyses. Among consented infants, 99 % had at least one 3.2 mm punch successfully retrieved for biomarker analyses and 84 % had a full DBS circle available.
Parental characteristics varied slightly by consent, and the availability of samples for research purposes was high, demonstrating the feasibility of this resource for population based research.
PMCID: PMC4741027  PMID: 26846420
Blood spot; Consent; Newborn Screening
4.  Detection of Immunoglobulin Isotypes from Dried Blood Spots 
The study was designed to determine the sensitivity and reproducibility of recovering immunoglobulin (Ig) isotypes (IgG subclasses, IgA, IgE and IgM classes) from dried blood spots (DBS), a methodologic subcomponent of the Upstate KIDS Study. A multiplexed Luminex assay was used for IgG1/2/3/4, IgA and IgM analysis; an ELISA was used for IgE. Plasma samples from de-identified patients were used to compare the Luminex assay with nephelometry, which is routinely used to quantify IgA, IgG and IgM in clinical samples. The IgE ELISA was compared to an immunofluorescence assay. Prior to evaluation of punches from newborn dried blood spots (NDBSs), recoveries of Ig from punches of cord blood DBSs (CBDBSs) vs. plasma from the same cord bloods were compared. Although the recoveries of Ig from plasma and DBSs were not comparable, which could be due to cell lysates in the DBS samples, the analyses were reproducible. Additionally, the levels of IgA, IgG2, IgG4, and IgM recovered from CBDBSs positively correlated with those in plasma. The DBS data is a relative value since it is not equivalent to the plasma concentration. The majority of Ig concentrations recovered from 108 newborns of the Upstate KIDs Study were within the range of newborn plasma Ig levels with the exception of IgG3. The IgG4 values displayed the greatest variance with a wide range (0.01–319 mg/dl), whereas, IgG1 values had the narrowest range (85.2–960.4 mg/dl).
PMCID: PMC4663688  PMID: 24333851
5.  Prevalence and Correlates of Gastroschisis in 15 States, 1995 to 2005 
Obstetrics and gynecology  2013;122(2 0 1):275-281.
To identify trends in the prevalence and epidemiologic correlates of gastroschisis using a large population-based sample with cases identified by the National Birth Defects Prevention Network over the course of an 11-year period.
This study examined 4,713 cases of gastroschisis occurring in 15 states during 1995–2005, using public use natality data sets for denominators. Multivariable Poisson regression was used to identify statistically significant risk factors, and Joinpoint regression analyses were conducted to assess temporal trends in gastroschisis prevalence by maternal age and race and ethnicity.
Results show an increasing temporal trend for gastroschisis (from 2.32 per 10,000 to 4.42 per 10,000 live births). Increasing prevalence of gastroschisis has occurred primarily among younger mothers (11.45 per 10,000 live births among mothers younger than age 20 years compared with 5.35 per 10,000 among women aged 20 to 24 years). In the multivariable analysis, using non-Hispanic whites as the referent group, non-Hispanic black women had the lowest risk of having a gastroschisis-affected pregnancy (prevalence ratio 0.42, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.37–0.48), followed by Hispanics (prevalence ratio 0.86, 95% CI 0.81–0.92). Gastroschisis prevalence did not differ by newborn sex.
Our findings demonstrate that the prevalence of gastroschisis has been increasing since 1995 among 15 states in the United States, and that higher rates of gastroschisis are associated with non-Hispanic white maternal race and ethnicity, and maternal age younger than 25 years (particularly younger than 20 years of age).
PMCID: PMC4605404  PMID: 23969795
6.  Methodology for Establishing a Population-Based Birth Cohort Focusing on Couple Fertility and Children’s Development, the Upstate KIDS Study 
Critical data gaps remain regarding infertility treatment and child development. We assessed the utility of a birth certificate registry for developing a population cohort aimed at answering such questions.
We utilized the Upstate New York live birth registry (N=201,063) to select births conceived with (n=4,024) infertility treatment or exposed infants, who were then frequency-matched by residence and plurality to a random sample of infants conceived without (n=14,455) treatment or unexposed infants, 2008–2010. Mothers were recruited at 2–4 months postpartum and queried about their reproductive histories including infertility treatment for comparison with birth certificate data. Overall, 1,297 (32%) mothers of exposed and 3,692 of unexposed (26%) infants enrolled.
Twins represented 22% of each infant group. The percentage of infants conceived with/without infertility treatment was similar whether derived from the birth registry or maternal report: 71% none, 16% drugs or intrauterine insemination, and 14% ART. Concordant reporting between the two data sources was 93% for no treatment, 88% for ART and 83% for fertility drugs, but differed by plurality. Exposed infants had slightly (p<0.01) earlier gestations than unexposed infants (38.3±2.8 and 38.7±2.7 weeks, respectively) based upon birth certificates but not maternal report (38.7±2.7 and 38.7±2.9, respectively). Conversely, mean birthweight was comparable using birth certificates (3157±704 and 3194±679 grams, respectively), but differed using maternal report (3167±692 and 3224±661, respectively p<0.05).
The birth certificate registry is a suitable sampling framework as measured by concordance with maternally reported infertility treatment. Future efforts should address the impact of factors associated with discordant reporting on research findings.
PMCID: PMC4563277  PMID: 24665916
7.  Maternal periconceptional occupational exposure to pesticides and selected musculoskeletal birth defects 
This population-based U.S. study investigated the association between major musculoskeletal malformations and periconceptional maternal occupational pesticide exposure for a wide range of occupations. We conducted a multi-site case–control analysis using data from the National Birth Defects Prevention Study among employed women with due dates from October 1, 1997 through December 31, 2002. Cases included 871 live-born, stillborn, or electively terminated fetuses with isolated craniosynostosis, gastroschisis, diaphragmatic hernia, or transverse limb deficiencies. Controls included 2857 live-born infants without major malformations. Using self-reported maternal occupational information, an industrial hygienist used a job-exposure matrix and expert opinion to evaluate the potential for exposure to insecticides, herbicides or fungicides for each job held during one month pre-conception through three months post-conception. Exposures analyzed included any exposure (yes/no) to pesticides, to insecticides only, to both insecticides and herbicides (I + H) and to insecticides, herbicides and fungicides (I + H + F). We used logistic regression to evaluate the association between exposures and defects, controlling for infant and maternal risk factors. Occupational exposure to I + H + F was associated with gastroschisis among infants of women aged 20 years or older (adjusted odds ratio [aOR] = 1.88; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.16–3.05), but not for women under age 20 (aOR = 0.48; 95% CI: 0.20–1.16). We found no significant associations for the other defects. Additional research is needed to validate these findings in a separate population.
PMCID: PMC4524544  PMID: 23871272
Pesticides; Maternal occupational exposure; Craniosynostosis; Gastroschisis; Diaphragmatic hernia; Transverse limb deficiencies
8.  Analysis of polychlorinated biphenyls and organochlorine pesticides in archived dried blood spots and its application to track temporal trends of environmental chemicals in newborns 
Environmental research  2014;133:204-210.
Dried blood spots (DBS) collected from infants shortly after birth for the newborn screening program (NSP) in the United States are valuable resources for the assessment of exposure to environmental chemicals in newborns. The NSP was debuted as a public health program in the United States in the 1960s; and the DBS samples collected over a period of time can be used in tracking temporal trends in exposure to environmental chemicals by newborns. In this study, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and organochlorine pesticides (OCPs) were measured in DBS samples collected from newborns in Upstate New York from 1997 to 2011 by gas chromatography-high resolution mass spectrometry (GC-HRMS). Twelve PCBs and two OCPs were found in DBS samples at a detection rate above 50% (n = 51). The mean whole blood concentration of ΣPCBs (sum of 12 congeners) over the 15-year period was 1.06 ng/mL, followed by p,p′-DDE (0.421 ng/mL) and HCB (0.065 ng/mL). The measured concentrations of PCBs and p,p′-DDE in infants’ blood were comparable to those reported in cord blood, suggesting maternal/trans-placental transfer of these compounds from mothers to fetuses. The concentrations of ΣPCBs and p,p′-DDE in blood samples of infants decreased significantly between 1997 and 2001, and no significant reduction was found thereafter. This observation is consistent with the trends reported for these chemicals in other human tissues in the United States.
PMCID: PMC4119526  PMID: 24968082
PCBs; OCPs; Dried blood spot; Temporal trend; Infants
9.  Descriptive and risk factor analysis for choanal atresia: The National Birth Defects Prevention Study, 1997–2007 
Choanal atresia causes serious posterior nasal obstruction. This defect is the leading cause of nasal surgery in newborns, although its etiology is largely unknown. Data from the National Birth Defects Prevention Study, a population-based case–control study, were used to examine associations between maternal self-reports of exposures and occurrence of choanal atresia in their offspring. Overall, 117 case and 8350 control mothers with deliveries from 1997 through 2007 provided telephone interview reports of pre-pregnancy (one year before conception) and periconceptional (one month before through three months after conception) exposures. The exposures analyzed were pre-pregnancy dietary intake, pre-pregnancy and periconceptional caffeine consumption, and periconceptional cigarette smoking, alcohol drinking, and medication use. Independent associations between each exposure and all choanal atresia cases combined (n = 117) and isolated choanal atresia cases (those without additional unrelated major defects; n = 61) were examined. Odds ratios (ORs), both unadjusted (uORs) and adjusted (aORs) for potential confounders, and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were estimated using unconditional logistic regression analysis. For all choanal atresia cases combined, positive associations were observed with maternal pre-pregnancy intake in the highest quartile for vitamin B-12 (aOR = 1.9; CI = 1.1,3.1), zinc (aOR = 1.7; CI = 1.0,3.1), and niacin (aOR = 1.8; CI = 1.0,3.1), and intake in the lowest quartile for methionine (aOR = 1.6; CI = 1.0,2.6) and vitamin D (aOR = 1.6; CI = 1.0,2.4) compared to intake in the two intermediate quartiles combined. Further, a positive association was observed with periconceptional use of thyroid medications (uOR = 2.6; CI = 1.0,6.3) compared to no use of such medications. Among isolated choanal atresia cases, negative associations were observed for pantothenic acid (aOR = 0.4; CI = 0.2,0.9) and fat (aOR = 0.5; 95% CI = 0.2,1.0) intake in the lowest quartile compared to that in the intermediate quartiles, and positive associations were observed for periconceptional cigarette smoking (aOR = 2.3; CI = 1.1,4.7) compared to no smoking and pre-pregnancy daily coffee intake of 3 or more cups (aOR = 2.5; CI = 1.1,5.6) compared to intake of less than 1 cup per day. The positive association for periconceptional exposure to thyroid medications also persisted for isolated choanal atresia cases (uOR = 4.0; CI = 1.1,11.2). Because of the large number of associations tested, these findings may be due to chance. Alternatively, they may contribute new hypotheses regarding the etiology of choanal atresia; thus, requiring replication in additional studies.
PMCID: PMC4520237  PMID: 24576610
Alcohol drinking; Caffeine; Choanal atresia; Cigarette smoking; Diet
11.  Medication Use in Pregnancy in Relation to the Risk of Isolated Clubfoot in Offspring 
American Journal of Epidemiology  2014;180(1):86-93.
Clubfoot, a common major structural malformation, develops early in gestation. Epidemiologic studies have identified higher risks among boys, first-born children, and babies with a family history of clubfoot, but studies of risks associated with maternal exposures are lacking. We conducted the first large-scale, population-based, case-control study of clubfoot with detailed information on maternal medication use in pregnancy. Study subjects were ascertained from birth defect registries in Massachusetts, New York, and North Carolina during 2007–2011. Cases were 646 mothers of children with clubfoot without other major structural malformations (i.e., isolated clubfoot); controls were mothers of 2,037 children born without major malformations. Mothers were interviewed within 12 months of delivery about medication use, including product, timing, and frequency. Odds ratios were estimated for exposure to 27 medications in pregnancy months 2–4 after adjustment for study site, infant sex, first-born status, body mass index (weight (kg)/height (m)2), and smoking. Odds ratios were less than 1.20 for 14 of the medications; of the remainder, most odds ratios were only slightly elevated (range, 1.21–1.66), with wide confidence intervals. The use of antiviral drugs was more common in clubfoot cases than in controls (odds ratio = 4.22, 95% confidence interval: 1.52, 11.73). Most of these results are new findings and require confirmation in other studies.
PMCID: PMC4133556  PMID: 24824985
clubfoot; malformation; medications; pregnancy
12.  Complementary and Alternative Medicine for Duchenne and Becker Muscular Dystrophies: Characteristics of Users and Caregivers 
Pediatric neurology  2014;51(1):71-77.
Complementary and alternative medicine is frequently used in the management of chronic pediatric diseases, but little is known about its use by those with Duchenne or Becker muscular dystrophy.
Complementary and alternative medicine use by male patients with Duchenne or Becker muscular dystrophy and associations with characteristics of male patients and their caregivers were examined through interviews with 362 primary caregivers identified from the Muscular Dystrophy Surveillance, Tracking, and Research Network.
Overall, 272 of the 362 (75.1%) primary caregivers reported that they had used any complementary and alternative medicine for the oldest Muscular Dystrophy Surveillance, Tracking, and Research Network male in their family. The most commonly reported therapies were from the mind-body medicine domain (61.0%) followed by those from the biologically based practice (39.2%), manipulative and body-based practice (29.3%), and whole medical system (6.9%) domains. Aquatherapy, prayer and/or blessing, special diet, and massage were the most frequently used therapies. Compared with nonusers, male patients who used any therapy were more likely to have an early onset of symptoms and use a wheel chair; their caregivers were more likely to be non-Hispanic white. Among domains, associations were observed with caregiver education and family income (mind-body medicines [excluding prayer and/or blessing only] and whole medical systems) and Muscular Dystrophy Surveillance, Tracking, and Research Network site (biologically based practices and mind-body medicines [excluding prayer and/or blessing only]).
Complementary and alternative medicine use was common in the management of Duchenne and Becker muscular dystrophies among Muscular Dystrophy Surveillance, Tracking, and Research Network males. This widespread use suggests further study to evaluate the efficacy of integrating complementary and alternative medicine into treatment regimens for Duchenne and Becker muscular dystrophies.
PMCID: PMC4467767  PMID: 24785967
Becker muscular dystrophy; complementary therapies; Duchenne muscular dystrophy; neuromuscular diseases
13.  Maternal Caffeine Consumption and Risk of Congenital Limb Deficiencies 
Animal studies have shown that high doses of caffeine might cause congenital limb deficiencies (LDs); however, no epidemiologic studies have explored this relation.
This case-control study assessed associations between maternal dietary caffeine and congenital LDs using data from the National Birth Defects Prevention Study (NBDPS), with 844 LD cases and 8069 controls from 1997 to 2007. Caffeine intakes from beverages (coffee, tea, and soda) and chocolate combined and by beverage type were examined. Adjusted odds ratios (aORs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were estimated for subtypes of isolated LDs (no additional major anomalies) and LDs with other major anomalies separately, comparing the odds of 10 to <100, 100 to <200, 200 to <300, and 300+ mg/day total caffeine intake to 0 to <10 mg/day.
All total dietary caffeine intake categories of 10 mg/day and above were marginally associated with odds of all isolated LDs combined (aOR, 1.4–1.7), isolated longitudinal LDs (aOR, 1.2–1.6), and isolated transverse LDs (aOR, 1.3–1.8) compared to the lowest intake category. A dose-response pattern for total dietary caffeine intake was not observed.
A weak increased risk of congenital LDs associated with maternal dietary caffeine consumption was observed in this study; however, risk did not vary by amount of caffeine consumed.
PMCID: PMC4457310  PMID: 22903936
caffeine; coffee; tea; soda; congenital limb deficiencies
14.  Periconceptional Maternal Alcohol Consumption and Neural Tube Defects 
Neural tube defects (NTD)s, which occur when the neural tube fails to close during early gestation, are some of the most common birth defects worldwide. Alcohol is a known teratogen and has been shown to induce NTDs in animal studies, although most human studies have failed to corroborate these results. Using data from the National Birth Defects Prevention Study, associations between maternal reports of periconceptional (1 month prior through 2 months postconception) alcohol consumption and NTDs were examined.
NTD cases and unaffected live born control infants, delivered from 1997 through 2005, were included. Interview reports of alcohol consumption (quantity, frequency, variability, and type) were obtained from 1223 case mothers and 6807 control mothers. Adjusted odds ratios (aOR)s and 95% confidence intervals were estimated using multivariable logistic regression analysis.
For all NTDs combined, most aORs for any alcohol consumption, one or more binge episodes, and different type(s) of alcohol consumed were near unity or modestly reduced (≥0.7
These findings suggest no elevated association between maternal periconceptional alcohol consumption and NTDs. Underreporting of alcohol consumption, due to negative social stigma associated with alcohol consumption during pregnancy, and limited reports for mothers with early pregnancy loss of a fetus with an NTD may have affected the estimated odds ratios. Future studies should aim to increase sample sizes for less prevalent subtypes, reduce exposure misclassification, and improve ascertainment of fetal deaths and elective terminations.
PMCID: PMC4435553  PMID: 23456758
alcohol; birth defects; neural tube defects; pregnancy
Advanced maternal age and altered recombination are known risk factors for Down syndrome cases due to maternal non-disjunction of chromosome 21, whereas the impact of other environmental and genetic factors is unclear. The aim of this study was to investigate an association between low maternal socioeconomic status and chromosome 21 nondisjunction.
Data from 714 case and 977 control families were used to assess chromosome 21 meiosis I and meiosis II nondisjunction errors in the presence of three low socioeconomic status factors: (i) both parents had not completed high school, (ii) both maternal grandparents had not completed high school, and (iii) an annual household income of <$25,000. We applied logistic regression models and adjusted for covariates, including maternal age and race/ethnicity.
As compared with mothers of controls (n = 977), mothers with meiosis II chromosome 21 nondisjunction (n = 182) were more likely to have a history of one low socioeconomic status factor (odds ratio = 1.81; 95% confidence interval = 1.07–3.05) and ≥2 low socioeconomic status factors (odds ratio = 2.17; 95% confidence interval = 1.02–4.63). This association was driven primarily by having a low household income (odds ratio = 1.79; 95% confidence interval = 1.14–2.73). The same statistically significant association was not detected among maternal meiosis I errors (odds ratio = 1.31; 95% confidence interval = 0.81–2.10), in spite of having a larger sample size (n = 532).
We detected a significant association between low maternal socioeconomic status and meiosis II chromosome 21 non-disjunction. Further studies are warranted to explore which aspects of low maternal socioeconomic status, such as environmental exposures or poor nutrition, may account for these results.
PMCID: PMC4122862  PMID: 23558253
chromosome nondisjunction; Down syndrome; risk factors; socioeconomic status; trisomy 21
Environmental science & technology  2013;47(14):8015-8021.
Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) are ubiquitous environmental pollutants, and, on a global basis, North American populations are exposed to the highest doses of PBDEs. In response to the exponential increase in human exposure to PBDEs during the late 1990s, some PBDE formulations were phased out from production in the early 2000s. The effectiveness of the phase-out of commercial Penta-BDE and Octa-BDE mixtures in 2004 in the U.S. on human exposure levels is not known. Dried blood spots (DBSs), collected for the newborn screening program (NSP) in the U.S., are a valuable resource for the elucidation of trends in exposure to environmental pollutants in newborns. In this study, seven PBDE congeners were determined by gas chromatography-high resolution mass spectrometry (GC-HRMS) in archived DBS samples (in total, 51 blood spot composites from 1,224 newborns) collected from newborns in New York State (NYS) from 1997 to 2011. The most frequently detected PBDE congener was BDE-47, with a detection rate (DR) of 86%, followed by BDE-99 (DR: 45%) and BDE-100 (DR: 43%). The mean concentrations determined during 1997 through 2011 in the whole blood of newborns were 0.128, 0.040, and 0.012 ng/mL for BDEs −47, −99, and −100, respectively. A significant correlation was found among the concentrations of three major congeners (p < 0.001). PBDE concentrations were similar during 1997 through 2002 and, thereafter, decreased significantly, which was similar to the trends observed for perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) in DBS samples. Occurrence of PBDEs in the whole blood of newborns confirms that these compounds do cross the placental barrier.
PMCID: PMC3725776  PMID: 23755886
PBDEs; Dried blood spot; Human exposure; Temporal trend; Newborn
Clubfoot is a common structural malformation, occurring in approximately 1/1000 live births. Previous studies of sociodemographic and pregnancy-related risk factors have been inconsistent, with the exception of the strong male preponderance and association with primiparity. Hypotheses for clubfoot pathogenesis include fetal constraint, Mendelian-inheritance, and vascular disruption, but its etiology remains elusive. We conducted a population-based case-control study of clubfoot in North Carolina, Massachusetts, and New York from 2007 to 2011. Mothers of 677 clubfoot cases and 2,037 non-malformed controls were interviewed within one year of delivery about socio-demographic and reproductive factors. Cases and controls were compared for child’s sex, maternal age, education, cohabitation status, race/ethnicity, state, gravidity, parity, body mass index (BMI), and these pregnancy-related conditions: oligohydramnios, breech delivery, bicornuate uterus, plural birth, early amniocentesis (<16 weeks), chorionic villous sampling (CVS), and plural gestation with fetal loss. Odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were adjusted for state. Cases were more likely to be male (OR: 2.7; 2.2–3.3) and born to primiparous mothers (1.4; 1.2–1.7) and mothers with BMI ≥30 kg/m2 (1.4; 1.1–1.8). These associations were greatest in isolated and bilateral cases. ORs for the pregnancy-related conditions ranged from 1.3 (breech delivery) to 5.6 (early amniocentesis). Positive associations with high BMI were confined to cases with a marker of fetal constraint (oligohydramnios, breech delivery, bicornuate uterus, plural birth), inheritance (family history in 1st degree relative), or vascular disruption (early amniocentesis, CVS, plural gestation with fetal loss). Pathogenetic factors associated with obesity may be in the causal pathway for clubfoot.
PMCID: PMC3689855  PMID: 23686911
Both a lack of maternal folic acid supplementation and the presence of genetic variants that reduce enzyme activity in folate pathway genes have been linked to meiotic nondisjunction of chromosome 21; however, the findings in this area of research have been inconsistent. To better understand these inconsistencies, we asked whether maternal use of a folic acid-containing supplement before conception reduces risk for chromosome 21 nondisjunction. Using questionnaire data from the National Down Syndrome Project, a population-based case-control study, we compared the use of folic acid-containing supplements among mothers of infants with full trisomy 21 due to maternal nondisjunction (n=702) and mothers of infants born with no major birth defects (n=983). Using logistic regression, adjusting for maternal age, race/ethnicity, and infant age at maternal interview, we found no evidence of an association between lack of folic acid supplementation and maternal nondisjunction among all case mothers (OR=1.16; 95% CI: 0.90–1.48). In analyses stratified by meiotic stage and maternal age (<35 years or ≥ 35 years), we found an association among older mothers experiencing meiosis II nondisjunction errors (OR=2.00; 95% CI: 1.08–3.71). These data suggest that lack of folic acid supplementation may be associated specifically with MII errors in the aging oocyte. If confirmed, these results could account for inconsistencies among previous studies, as each study sample may vary by maternal age structure and proportion of meiotic errors.
PMCID: PMC3607196  PMID: 23401135
Down syndrome; Trisomy 21; Aneuploidy; Nondisjunction; Chromosome segregation; Folic acid; Meiosis
Fertility and sterility  2013;99(2):311-317.
Initial reports suggested that children conceived with assisted reproductive technologies (ART) may be at increased risk for a spectrum of developmental disabilities. Evolving evidence suggests that some of the early risks may have been overstated when not taking plurality of birth or gestational age at delivery into consideration, since both are independent risk factors for neurodevelopmental disabilities arising from alterations in structure and function or limitations in activities. Continued research is needed to overcome lingering data gaps in light of the equivocal literature for many neurodevelopmental disabilities relative to ART, increasing utilization of services and changes in the clinical management of infecund couples such as the adoption of natural cycles or in vitro maturation treatment options. Population-based cohorts with longitudinal assessment of the multifaceted nature of neurodevelopment across critical and sensitive windows is paramount for the development of empirically based guidance for clinical and population health.
PMCID: PMC3564049  PMID: 23375145
Assisted reproductive technology; children; epidemiology; neurodevelopment; impairments
Fertility and sterility  2013;99(2):318-326.
The cardiometabolic health of children conceived by assisted reproductive technologies (ART) compared with children conceived without medical assistance is unclear. Although the majority of published studies evaluating height, weight, and body mass index have not found differences by method of conception, some studies have indicated differences in adiposity by more direct measures such as skinfolds and dual X-ray absorptiometry. Far fewer studies have investigated other cardiometabolic characteristics, such as blood pressure and measures of lipid and glucose metabolism. Of these studies, some indications of increased blood pressure and recent findings of vascular dysfunction among children conceived by ART compared with children conceived without ART warrant further investigation. Epigenetic differences may be the global mechanism at work, resulting from different aspects of ART treatment, such as ovarian stimulation, in vitro culture, and manipulation of sperm, among other considerations. Fetal growth and placental development may serve as mediators of these effects. Future studies should consider recruiting sufficient numbers of ART and non-ART conceived multiples and collect information on indicators of cardiometabolic health in the parents. Despite some advantages of sibling cohorts in developmental origins research, its feasibility and utility for investigating health of children conceived by ART remains debatable.
PMCID: PMC3612937  PMID: 23312226
Cardiometabolic risk; assisted reproductive technology; in vitro fertilization; intracytoplasmic sperm injection; children; growth; adiposity; glucose; blood pressure
Annals of human genetics  2012;77(1):31-46.
Anorectal atresia is a serious birth defect of largely unknown etiology but candidate genes have been identified in animal studies and human syndromes. Because alterations in the activity of these genes might lead to anorectal atresia, we selected 71 common variants predicted to be in transcription factor binding sites, CpG windows, splice sites, and miRNA target sites of 25 candidate genes, and tested for their association with anorectal atresia. The study population comprised 150 anorectal atresia cases and 623 control infants without major malformations. Variants predicted to affect transcription factor binding, splicing, and DNA methylation in WNT3A, PCSK5, TCF4, MKKS, GLI2, HOXD12, and BMP4 were associated with anorectal atresia based on a nominal P value <0.05. The GLI2 and BMP4 variants are reported to be moderately associated with gene expression changes (Spearman’s rank correlation coefficients between −0.260 and 0.226). We did not find evidence for interaction between maternal pre-pregnancy obesity and variants in MKKS, a gene previously associated with obesity, on the risk of anorectal atresia. Our results for MKKS support previously suggested associations with anorectal malformations. Our findings suggest that more research is needed to determine whether altered GLI2 and BMP4 expression is important in anorectal atresia in humans.
PMCID: PMC3535506  PMID: 23127126
anorectal malformations; imperforate anus; hindgut; congenital abnormalities
Circulation. Cardiovascular genetics  2013;6(4):10.1161/CIRCGENETICS.113.000191.
Association between the C677T polymorphism of the methylene tetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR) gene and congenital heart disease (CHD) is contentious.
Methods and Results
We compared genotypes between CHD cases and controls, and between mothers of CHD cases and controls. We placed our results in context by conducting metaanalyses of previously published studies. Among 5,814 cases with primary genotype data and 10,056 controls, there was no evidence of association between MTHFR C677T genotype and CHD risk (OR 0.96 [95% CI 0.87-1.07]). A random-effects meta-analysis of all studies (involving 7,697 cases and 13,125 controls) suggested the presence of association (OR 1.25 [95% CI 1.03-1.51]; p=0.022), but with substantial heterogeneity among contributing studies (I2=64.4%), and evidence of publication bias. Meta-analysis of large studies only (defined by a variance of the log OR less than 0.05), which together contributed 83% of all cases, yielded no evidence of association (OR 0.97 [95% CI 0.91-1.03]), without significant heterogeneity (I2=0). Moreover, meta-analysis of 1,781 mothers of CHD cases (829 of whom were genotyped in this study) and 19,861 controls revealed no evidence of association between maternal C677T genotype and risk of CHD in offspring (OR 1.13 [95% CI 0.87-1.47]). There was no significant association between MTHFR genotype and CHD risk in large studies from regions with different levels of dietary folate.
The MTHFR C677T polymorphism, which directly influences plasma folate levels, is not associated with CHD risk. Publication biases appear to substantially contaminate the literature with regard to this genetic association.
PMCID: PMC3855044  PMID: 23876493
congenital heart disease; MTHFR; genetic association; folate; Mendelian randomization
International journal of hygiene and environmental health  2012;216(3):10.1016/j.ijheh.2012.05.006.
This study further examined the association between selected maternal occupations and a variety of birth defects identified from prior analysis and explored the effect of work hours and number of jobs held and potential interaction between folic acid and occupation. Data from a population-based, multi-center case-control study was used. Analyses included 45 major defects and specific sub-occupations under five occupational groups: healthcare workers, cleaners, scientists, teachers and personal service workers. Both logistic regression and Bayesian models (to minimize type-1 errors) were used, adjusted for potential confounders. Effect modification by folic acid was also assessed. More than any other occupation, nine different defects were positively associated with maids or janitors [odds ratio (OR) range: 1.72-3.99]. Positive associations were also seen between the following maternal occupations and defects in their children (OR range: 1.35-3.48): chemists/conotruncal heart and neural tube defects (NTDs), engineers/conotruncal defects, preschool teachers/cataracts and cleft lip with/without cleft palate (CL/P), entertainers/athletes/gastroschisis, and nurses/hydrocephalus and left ventricular outflow tract heart defects. Non-preschool teachers had significantly lower odds of oral clefts and gastroschisis in their offspring (OR range: 0.53-0.76). There was a suggestion that maternal folic acid use modified the effects with occupations including lowering the risk of NTDs and CL/P. No consistent patterns were found between maternal work hours or multiple jobs by occupation and the risk of birth defects. Overall, mothers working as maids, janitors, biologists, chemists, engineers, nurses, entertainers, child care workers and preschool teachers had increased risks of several malformations and non-preschool teachers had a lower risk of some defects. Maternal folic acid use reduced the odds of NTDs and CL/P among those with certain occupations. This hypothesis-generating study will provide clues for future studies with better exposure data.
PMCID: PMC3824611  PMID: 22695106
occupation; birth defects; folic acid
We conducted a population-based case-control study of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in selected genes to find common variants that play a role in the etiology of limb deficiencies (LD)s. Included in the study were 389 infants with LDs of unknown cause and 980 unaffected controls selected from all births in New York State (NYS) for the years 1998 to 2005. We used cases identified from the NYS Department of Health (DOH) Congenital Malformations Registry. Genotypes were obtained for 132 SNPs in genes involved in limb development (SHH, WNT7A, FGF4, FGF8, FGF10, TBX3, TBX5, SALL4, GREM1, GDF5, CTNNB1, EN1, CYP26A1, CYP26B1), angiogenesis (VEGFA, HIF1A, NOS3), and coagulation (F2, F5, MTHFR). Genotype call rates were >97% and SNPs were tested for departure from Hardy-Weinberg expectations by race/ethnic subgroups. For each SNP, odds ratios (OR)s and confidence intervals (CI)s were estimated and corrected for multiple comparisons for all LDs combined and for LD subtypes. Among non-Hispanic white infants, associations between FGF10 SNPs rs10805683 and rs13170645 and all LDs combined were statistically significant following correction for multiple testing (OR=1.99; 95% CI=1.43-2.77; uncorrected p=0.000043 for rs10805683 heterozygous genotype, and OR=2.37; 95% CI=1.48-3.78; uncorrected p=0.00032 for rs13170645 homozygous minor genotype). We also observed suggestive evidence for associations with SNPs in other genes including CYP26B1 and WNT7A. Animal studies have shown that FGF10 induces formation of the apical ectodermal ridge and is necessary for limb development. Our data suggest that common variants in FGF10 increase the risk for a wide range of non-syndromic limb deficiencies.
PMCID: PMC3448837  PMID: 22965740
limb deficiencies; polymorphisms; FGF10
The Journal of pediatrics  2008;154(2):263-266.
We investigated the prevalence of congenital renal and urologic anomalies in children with congenital hypothyroidism to determine whether further renal and urologic investigations would be of benefit.
Study design
Prevalence of congenital hypothyroidism was obtained from the New York State Congenital Malformation Registry. The occurrence of urinary tract anomalies were calculated for children with congenital hypothyroidism and compared to children without congenital hypothyroidism. In addition we obtained congenital hypothyroidism data from New York State newborn screening, and the cases were matched to Congenital Malformation Registry.
Analysis of Congenital Malformation Registry data showed 980 children with congenital hypothyroidism and 3 661 585 children without congenital hypothyroidism born in New York State (1992-2005). Children with congenital hypothyroidism have a significantly increased risk of congenital renal and urological anomalies with the odds ratio (OR) of 13.2 (10.6-16.5). The other significantly increased defects in congenital hypothyroidism were cardiac, gastrointestinal, and skeletal. Analysis of matched data confirmed an increase of congenital renal and urologic anomalies with OR of 4.8 (3.7-6.3).
Children with congenital hypothyroidism have an increased prevalence of congenital renal and urologic anomalies. We suggest that these children should be evaluated for the presence of congenital renal and urologic anomalies with renal ultrasonography, and that further studies of common genes involved in thyroid and kidney development are warranted.
PMCID: PMC3749842  PMID: 18823909

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