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1.  Preterm birth, infant weight gain, and childhood asthma risk: A meta-analysis of 147,000 European children 
Preterm birth, low birth weight, and infant catch-up growth seem associated with an increased risk of respiratory diseases in later life, but individual studies showed conflicting results.
We performed an individual participant data meta-analysis for 147,252 children of 31 birth cohort studies to determine the associations of birth and infant growth characteristics with the risks of preschool wheezing (1-4 years) and school-age asthma (5-10 years).
First, we performed an adjusted 1-stage random-effect meta-analysis to assess the combined associations of gestational age, birth weight, and infant weight gain with childhood asthma. Second, we performed an adjusted 2-stage random-effect meta-analysis to assess the associations of preterm birth (gestational age <37 weeks) and low birth weight (<2500 g) with childhood asthma outcomes.
Younger gestational age at birth and higher infant weight gain were independently associated with higher risks of preschool wheezing and school-age asthma (P < .05). The inverse associations of birth weight with childhood asthma were explained by gestational age at birth. Compared with term-born children with normal infant weight gain, we observed the highest risks of school-age asthma in children born preterm with high infant weight gain (odds ratio [OR], 4.47; 95% CI, 2.58-7.76). Preterm birth was positively associated with an increased risk of preschool wheezing (pooled odds ratio [pOR], 1.34; 95% CI, 1.25-1.43) and school-age asthma (pOR, 1.40; 95% CI, 1.18-1.67) independent of birth weight. Weaker effect estimates were observed for the associations of low birth weight adjusted for gestational age at birth with preschool wheezing (pOR, 1.10; 95% CI, 1.00-1.21) and school-age asthma (pOR, 1.13; 95% CI, 1.01-1.27).
Younger gestational age at birth and higher infant weight gain were associated with childhood asthma outcomes. The associations of lower birth weight with childhood asthma were largely explained by gestational age at birth.
PMCID: PMC4024198  PMID: 24529685
Gestational age; low birth weight; infant growth; wheezing; asthma; children; cohort studies; epidemiology; BMI, Body mass index; ISAAC, International Study on Asthma and Allergy in Childhood; OR, Odds ratio; pOR, Pooled odds ratio; SDS, Standard deviation scores
2.  Comparison of child morbidity in regions of Ostrava, Czech Republic, with different degrees of pollution: a retrospective cohort study 
Environmental Health  2013;12:74.
To confirm or refute the hypothesis that the morbidity of children (since birth to age 5) born and living in the heavily polluted (PM10, benzo[a]pyrene) eastern part of Ostrava, Czech Republic, was higher than the morbidity of children living in other parts of the city.
Ten pediatricians in 5 districts of Ostrava abstracted the medical records of 1878 children born in 2001–2004 to list all illnesses of each child in ICD-10 codes. The children were divided into four groups according to their residence at birth and thereafter. Most of the children in the eastern area were living in the city district Radvanice and Bartovice.
We report on the incidence of acute illnesses in 1535 children of Czech ethnicity in the first 5 years of life. The most frequent acute illnesses (over 45% of all diagnoses) were upper respiratory infections (URI: J00-J02, J06). In the first year of life, the incidence of URI in 183 children in the eastern area – 372 illnesses/100 children/year – was more than twice as high as in the other 3 areas with a total number of 1352 children. From birth to the age of 5 years, the incidences of pneumonia, tonsillitis, viral infections (ICD-10 code B34) and intestinal infectious diseases were also several times higher in children living in the eastern part of Ostrava. The lowest morbidity was found in children living in the less polluted western part of the city.
The children born and living in the eastern part of the city of Ostrava had from birth through 5 years significantly higher incidence rates of acute illnesses than children in other parts of Ostrava. They also had a higher prevalence of wheezing, atopic dermatitis and allergic rhinitis.
PMCID: PMC3844449  PMID: 24004520
Ostrava; Children; Age-specific morbidity; Incidence; ICD-10; Wheezing; Benzo[a]pyrene; PM10
3.  Nucleotide Excision Repair Is Not Induced in Human Embryonic Lung Fibroblasts Treated with Environmental Pollutants 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(7):e69197.
The cellular response to genotoxic treatment depends on the cell line used. Although tumor cell lines are widely used for genotoxicity tests, the interpretation of the results may be potentially hampered by changes in cellular processes caused by malignant transformation. In our study we used normal human embryonic lung fibroblasts (HEL12469 cells) and tested their response to treatment with benzo[a]pyrene (B[a]P) and extractable organic matter (EOM) from ambient air particles <2.5 µm (PM2.5) collected in two Czech cities differing in levels and sources of air pollution. We analyzed multiple endpoints associated with exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) including the levels of bulky DNA adducts and the nucleotide excision repair (NER) response [expression of XPE, XPC and XPA genes on the level of mRNA and proteins, unscheduled DNA synthesis (UDS)]. EOMs were collected in the winter and summer of 2011 in two Czech cities with different levels and sources of air pollution. The effects of the studied compounds were analyzed in the presence (+S9) and absence (–S9) of the rat liver microsomal S9 fraction. The levels of bulky DNA adducts were highest after treatment with B[a]P, followed by winter EOMs; their induction by summer EOMs was weak. The induction of both mRNA and protein expression was observed, with the most pronounced effects after treatment with B[a]P (–S9); the response induced by EOMs from both cities and seasons was substantially weaker. The expression of DNA repair genes was not accompanied by the induction of UDS activity. In summary, our results indicate that the tested compounds induced low levels of DNA damage and affected the expression of NER genes; however, nucleotide excision repair was not induced.
PMCID: PMC3716811  PMID: 23894430
4.  Human and Methodological Sources of Variability in the Measurement of Urinary 8-Oxo-7,8-dihydro-2′-deoxyguanosine 
Antioxidants & Redox Signaling  2013;18(18):2377-2391.
Aims: Urinary 8-oxo-7,8-dihydro-2′-deoxyguanosine (8-oxodG) is a widely used biomarker of oxidative stress. However, variability between chromatographic and ELISA methods hampers interpretation of data, and this variability may increase should urine composition differ between individuals, leading to assay interference. Furthermore, optimal urine sampling conditions are not well defined. We performed inter-laboratory comparisons of 8-oxodG measurement between mass spectrometric-, electrochemical- and ELISA-based methods, using common within-technique calibrants to analyze 8-oxodG-spiked phosphate-buffered saline and urine samples. We also investigated human subject- and sample collection-related variables, as potential sources of variability. Results: Chromatographic assays showed high agreement across urines from different subjects, whereas ELISAs showed far more inter-laboratory variation and generally overestimated levels, compared to the chromatographic assays. Excretion rates in timed ‘spot’ samples showed strong correlations with 24 h excretion (the ‘gold’ standard) of urinary 8-oxodG (rp 0.67–0.90), although the associations were weaker for 8-oxodG adjusted for creatinine or specific gravity (SG). The within-individual excretion of 8-oxodG varied only moderately between days (CV 17% for 24 h excretion and 20% for first void, creatinine-corrected samples). Innovation: This is the first comprehensive study of both human and methodological factors influencing 8-oxodG measurement, providing key information for future studies with this important biomarker. Conclusion: ELISA variability is greater than chromatographic assay variability, and cannot determine absolute levels of 8-oxodG. Use of standardized calibrants greatly improves intra-technique agreement and, for the chromatographic assays, importantly allows integration of results for pooled analyses. If 24 h samples are not feasible, creatinine- or SG-adjusted first morning samples are recommended. Antioxid. Redox Signal. 18, 2377–2391.
PMCID: PMC3671631  PMID: 23198723
5.  Bulky DNA adducts in white blood cells: a pooled analysis of 3600 subjects 
Bulky DNA adducts are markers of exposure to genotoxic aromatic compounds, which reflect an individual’s ability to metabolically activate carcinogens and to repair DNA damage. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) represent a major class of carcinogens that are capable of forming such adducts. Factors that have been reported to be related to DNA adduct levels include smoking, diet, body mass index (BMI), genetic polymorphisms, the season of collection of biologic material, and air pollutants.
We pooled eleven studies (3,600 subjects) in which bulky DNA adducts were measured in human white blood cells with similar 32P-postlabelling techniques and for which a similar set of variables was available, including individual data on age, gender, ethnicity, batch, smoking habits, BMI, season of blood collection and a limited set of gene variants.
Lowest DNA adduct levels were observed in the spring (median 0.50 adducts per 108 nucleotides), followed by summer (0.64), autumn (0.70) and winter (0.85) (p=0.006). The same pattern emerged in multivariate analysis, but only among never smokers (p=0.02). Adduct levels were significantly lower (p=0.001) in Northern Europe (the Netherlands, Denmark) (mean 0.60, median 0.40) than in Southern Europe (Italy, Spain, France, Greece) (mean 0.79, median 0.60).
In this large pooled analysis, we have found only weak associations between bulky DNA adducts and exposure variables. Seasonality (with higher adducts levels in winter) and air pollution may partly explain some of the inter-area differences (North vs South Europe), but most inter-area and inter-individual variation in adduct levels still remain unexplained.
Our study describes the largest pooled analysis of bulky DNA adducts so far, showing that inter-individual variation is still largely unexplained, though seasonality appears to play a role.
PMCID: PMC3686106  PMID: 20921335
DNA adducts; air pollution; seasonality
Chemico-biological interactions  2010;192(1-2):150-154.
1,3-Butadiene (BD) is a known rodent and human carcinogen that is metabolized mainly by P450 2E1 to three epoxides, 1,2-epoxy-3-butene (EB), 1,2:3,4-diepoxybutane (DEB) and 1,2-epoxy-3,4-butanediol (EB-diol). The individual epoxides vary up to 200-fold in their mutagenic potency, with DEB being the most mutagenic metabolite. It is important to understand the internal formation of the individual epoxides to assign the relative risk for each metabolite and to understand the molecular mechanisms responsible for major species differences in carcinogenicity. We have conducted extensive exposure-biomarker studies on mice, rats and humans. Using low exposures that range from current occupational levels to human exposures from tobacco smoke has provided evidence that mice are very different from humans, with mice forming ~200 times more DEB than humans at exposures of 0.1–1.5 ppm BD. While no gender differences have been noted in mice and rats for globin adducts or N-7 guanine adducts, female rats and mice had 2–3-fold higher Hprt mutations and DNA-DNA cross-links, suggesting a gender difference in DNA repair. Numerous molecular epidemiology studies have evaluated globin adducts and Hprt mutations, SCEs and chromosomal abnormalities. None of the blinded studies have shown evidence of human genotoxicity at current occupational exposures and studies of globin adducts have shown similar or lower formation of adducts in females than males. If one calculates the EB dose-equivalents for the three species, mice clearly differ from rats and humans, being ~44 and 174 times greater than rats and humans, respectively. These data provide a scientific basis for improved risk assessment of BD.
PMCID: PMC3501005  PMID: 20974116
butadiene; globin adducts; species comparisons; low exposures; metabolism; EB-equivalents
7.  Assessment of Multiple Types of DNA Damage in Human Placentas from Smoking and Non-smoking Women in the Czech Republic 
Three classes of DNA damage were assessed in human placentas collected (in 2000-4) from 51 women living in the Teplice region of the Czech Republic, a mining area considered to have some of the worst environmental pollution in Europe in the 1980s. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH)-DNA adducts were localized and semiquantified using immunohistochemistry (IHC) and the Automated Cellular Imaging System (ACIS). More generalized DNA damage was measured both by 32P-postlabeling and by abasic (AB) site analysis. Placenta stained with antiserum elicited against DNA modified with r7, t8-dihydroxy-t-9, 10-oxy-7,8,9,10-tetrahydro-benzo[a]pyrene (BPDE) revealed PAH-DNA adduct localization in nuclei of the cytotrophoblast (CT) cells and syncytiotrophoblast (ST) knots lining the chorionic villi. The highest levels of DNA damage, 49–312 PAH-DNA adducts/108 nucleotides, were found by IHC/ACIS in 14 immediately-fixed placenta samples. An additional 37 placenta samples were stored frozen before fixation and embedding, and because PAH-DNA adducts were largely undetectable in these samples, freezing was implicated in the loss of IHC signal. The same placentas (n = 37) contained 1.7 – 8.6 stable/bulky DNA adducts/108 nucleotides and 0.6 – 47.2 AB sites/105 nucleotides. For all methods there was no correlation among types of DNA damage and no difference in extent of DNA damage between smokers and non-smokers. Therefore, the data show that DNA from placentas obtained in Teplice contained multiple types of DNA damage, which likely arose from various environmental exposures. In addition, PAH-DNA adducts were present at high concentrations in the CT cells and ST knots of the chorionic villi.
PMCID: PMC3003747  PMID: 20839217
Automated Cellular Imaging System; Immunohistochemistry; BPDE-DNA antiserum; Abasic sites; 32P-Postlabeling; Teplice Program
8.  European Birth Cohorts for Environmental Health Research 
Background: Many pregnancy and birth cohort studies investigate the health effects of early-life environmental contaminant exposure. An overview of existing studies and their data is needed to improve collaboration, harmonization, and future project planning.
Objectives: Our goal was to create a comprehensive overview of European birth cohorts with environmental exposure data.
Methods: Birth cohort studies were included if they a) collected data on at least one environmental exposure, b) started enrollment during pregnancy or at birth, c) included at least one follow-up point after birth, d) included at least 200 mother–child pairs, and e) were based in a European country. A questionnaire collected information on basic protocol details and exposure and health outcome assessments, including specific contaminants, methods and samples, timing, and number of subjects. A full inventory can be searched on
Results: Questionnaires were completed by 37 cohort studies of > 350,000 mother–child pairs in 19 European countries. Only three cohorts did not participate. All cohorts collected biological specimens of children or parents. Many cohorts collected information on passive smoking (n = 36), maternal occupation (n = 33), outdoor air pollution (n = 27), and allergens/biological organisms (n = 27). Fewer cohorts (n = 12–19) collected information on water contamination, ionizing or nonionizing radiation exposures, noise, metals, persistent organic pollutants, or other pollutants. All cohorts have information on birth outcomes; nearly all on asthma, allergies, childhood growth and obesity; and 26 collected information on child neurodevelopment.
Conclusion: Combining forces in this field will yield more efficient and conclusive studies and ultimately improve causal inference. This impressive resource of existing birth cohort data could form the basis for longer-term and worldwide coordination of research on environment and child health.
PMCID: PMC3261945  PMID: 21878421
birth cohorts; child health; environmental exposures; Europe; review
9.  Genetic, Biochemical, and Environmental Factors Associated with Pregnancy Outcomes in Newborns from the Czech Republic 
Environmental Health Perspectives  2010;119(2):265-271.
Oxidative damage to placental DNA can result in negative pregnancy outcomes, including intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) and low birth weight (LBW).
We investigated associations between the levels of 8-oxo-7,8-dihydro-2′-deoxyguanosine (8-oxodG), a marker of oxidative DNA damage, in placental DNA, exposure to air pollutants during pregnancy, genetic polymorphisms in 94 selected genes, and pregnancy outcomes.
We studied 891 newborns who were IUGR- or LBW-affected or normal weight and were born between 1994 and 1999 in the Czech Republic in two districts with different levels of air pollution.
We found nonsignificantly elevated 8-oxodG levels in the IUGR-affected group compared with the non-IUGR group (p = 0.055). Similarly, slightly elevated 8-oxodG levels were found in the LBW-affected group compared with the non-LBW group (p < 0.050). In univariate analyses, we identified single nucleotide polymorphisms associated with 8-oxodG levels, IUGR, and LBW. Exposure to particulate matter < 2.5 μm was associated with increased 8-oxodG levels in placental DNA and LBW. However, multivariate-adjusted logistic regression revealed that above-median 8-oxodG levels were the only factor significantly associated with IUGR [OR = 1.56; 95% confidence interval (CI), 1.07–2.37; p = 0.022]. Above-median levels of 8-oxodG were associated with LBW (OR = 1.88; 95% CI, 1.15–3.06; p = 0.011). Other variables associated with LBW included sex and gestational age of the newborn, maternal smoking, and haplotypes in the promoter region of the gene encoding mannose-binding lectin 2 (MBL2). The role of air pollutants in the risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes seemed to be less important.
Levels of 8-oxodG in placental DNA were associated with the risk of IUGR as well as LBW. Newborn’s sex, gestational age, maternal smoking, and genetic polymorphisms in the promoter region of the MBL2 gene were associated with LBW incidence.
PMCID: PMC3040616  PMID: 20923744
air pollution; biomarkers; genetic polymorphisms; oxidative damage; pregnancy outcomes
10.  Biomarkers of exposure and effect—interpretation in human risk assessment 
Air Quality, Atmosphere, & Health  2011;4(3-4):161-167.
The effect of exposure to carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons adsorbed onto respirable air particles (PM2.5, diameter < 2.5 μm) on DNA adducts and chromosomal aberrations was repeatedly studied in Prague, Czech Republic, in groups of policemen working in the downtown area and in bus drivers. Personal exposure was evaluated using personal samplers during working shifts. DNA adducts were analyzed in lymphocytes by the 32P-postlabeling assay and chromosomal aberrations were analyzed by conventional cytogenetic analysis and fluorescent in situ hybridization (FISH). The impact of environmental pollution on DNA adducts and chromosomal aberrations was studied in a total of 950 subjects. Our results suggest that the environmental exposure of nonsmokers to concentrations higher than 1 ng benzo[a]pyrene/m3 represents a risk of DNA damage, as indicated by an increase in DNA adducts and the genomic frequency of translocations determined by FISH.
PMCID: PMC3156305  PMID: 21949552
Personal monitoring; Carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons; Benzo[a]pyrene; DNA adducts; Chromosomal aberrations
11.  International study of factors affecting human chromosome translocations 
Mutation research  2008;652(2):112-121.
Chromosome translocations in peripheral blood lymphocytes of normal, healthy humans increase with age, but the effects of gender, race, and cigarette smoking on background translocation yields have not been examined systematically. Further, the shape of the relationship between age and translocation frequency (TF) has not been definitively determined. We collected existing data from sixteen laboratories in North America, Europe, and Asia on TFs measured in peripheral blood lymphocytes by fluorescence in situ hybridization whole chromosome painting among 1933 individuals. In Poisson regression models, age, ranging from newborns (cord blood) to 85 years, was strongly associated with TF and this relationship showed significant upward curvature at older ages vs. a linear relationship (p <0.001). Ever smokers had significantly higher TFs than non-smokers (rate ratio (RR) = 1.19, 95% confidence interval (CI), 1.09–1.30) and smoking modified the effect of age on TFs with a steeper age-related increase among ever smokers compared to non-smokers (p<0.001). TFs did not differ by gender. Interpreting an independent effect of race was difficult owing to laboratory variation. Our study is three times larger than any pooled effort to date, confirming a suspected curvilinear relationship of TF with age. The significant effect of cigarette smoking has not been observed with previous pooled studies of TF in humans. Our data provide stable estimates of background TF by age, gender, race, and smoking status and suggest an acceleration of chromosome damage above age 60 and among those with a history of smoking cigarettes.
PMCID: PMC2696320  PMID: 18337160
chromosome translocations; background frequency; controls; fluorescence in situ hybridization
12.  Chromosomal aberration frequency in lymphocytes predicts the risk of cancer: results from a pooled cohort study of 22 358 subjects in 11 countries 
Carcinogenesis  2008;29(6):1178-1183.
Mechanistic evidence linking chromosomal aberration (CA) to early stages of cancer has been recently supported by the results of epidemiological studies that associated CA frequency in peripheral lymphocytes of healthy individuals to future cancer incidence. To overcome the limitations of single studies and to evaluate the strength of this association, a pooled analysis was carried out. The pooled database included 11 national cohorts and a total of 22 358 cancer-free individuals who underwent genetic screening with CA for biomonitoring purposes during 1965–2002 and were followed up for cancer incidence and/or mortality for an average of 10.1 years; 368 cancer deaths and 675 incident cancer cases were observed. Subjects were classified within each laboratory according to tertiles of CA frequency. The relative risk (RR) of cancer was increased for subjects in the medium [RR = 1.31, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 1.07–1.60] and in the high (RR = 1.41; 95% CI = 1.16–1.72) tertiles when compared with the low tertile. This increase was mostly driven by chromosome-type aberrations. The presence of ring chromosomes increased the RR to 2.22 (95% CI = 1.34–3.68). The strongest association was found for stomach cancer [RRmedium = 1.17 (95% CI = 0.37–3.70), RRhigh = 3.13 (95% CI = 1.17–8.39)]. Exposure to carcinogens did not modify the effect of CA levels on overall cancer risk. These results reinforce the evidence of a link between CA frequency and cancer risk and provide novel information on the role of aberration subclass and cancer type.
PMCID: PMC2443275  PMID: 18356148
13.  Unfavourable birth outcomes of the Roma women in the Czech Republic and the potential explanations: a population-based study 
BMC Public Health  2005;5:106.
Data on the health status of the Roma people in Central and Eastern Europe are sparse and the reasons for their poor health are not clear. The objective of this study was to quantify the differences in birth outcomes between Roma and non-Roma mothers in the Czech Republic and to investigate the potential causes of such differences.
A population-based study recruited 8938 non-Roma and 1388 Roma hospitalised singleton births that occurred in two Czech districts (Teplice and Prachatice) between 1995 and 2004. During their stay in hospital, mothers completed a questionnaire on their demographic and socioeconomic characteristics and maternal smoking and alcohol consumption. Data on maternal height and weight and on infants' birth weight and gestational age were taken from hospital records.
Birth weight and gestational age of Roma infants was 373 (SE 15) g and 0.92 (0.05) weeks, respectively, lower than in non-Roma infants. Controlling for demographic, socioeconomic and behavioural factors reduced these differences to 133 (18) g and 0.57 (0.06) weeks, respectively (all p-values < 0.001). In terms of binary outcomes, the Roma vs. non-Roma odds ratios were 4.5 (95% CI 3.7–5.4) for low birth weight (< 2500 g), 2.8 (2.2–3.4) for preterm birth (< 37 weeks of gestation), and 2.9 (2.5–3.4) for intrauterine grown retardation (<10th percentile of birth weight for gestational age); controlling for all covariates reduced these odds ratios to 1.7 (1.3–2.2), 1.5 (1.1–2.0) and 1.3 (1.0–1.6), respectively. Maternal education made the largest contribution to the ethnic differences; the role of health behaviours was relatively modest.
There are striking differences in birth outcomes between Roma and non-Roma mothers. The causes of these differences are complex but largely socioeconomic.
PMCID: PMC1266377  PMID: 16216117

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