Fatty Acid Ethyl Esters in Meconium are Associated with Poorer Neurodevelopmental Outcomes to Two Years of Age

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To determine the relationship between fatty acid ethyl esters (FAEE) in meconium and neurodevelopment in infants exposed to alcohol in utero at 6.5 months, 1 year, and 2 years of age.

Study design

A secondary analysis of a prospective cohort of mothers at high risk and their infants recruited after admission to a labor and delivery unit. Mothers were screened for drug and alcohol use during pregnancy by clinical interview and urine screening. Meconium was analyzed for FAEE in 216 newborn infants. Outcome measures included the Bayley Scales of Infant Development Mental (MDI) and Psychomotor (PDI) Developmental Index scores in infants at 6.5 months, 1 year, and 2 years of age.


After controlling for prenatal visits and maternal factors, increasing concentrations of FAEE were significantly associated with poorer mental and psychomotor development (β ± standard error) at all follow-up visits: ethyl myristate (MDI −2.46 ± 1.24,P= .05; PDI −3.88 ± 1.67,P= .02), ethyl oleate (MDI −1.94 ± 0.65,P< .01; PDI −2.60 ± 0.93,P< .01), ethyl linoleate (MDI −1.92 ± 0.60,P< .01; PDI −2.28 ± 0.84,P< .01), ethyl linolenate (MDI −1.99 ± 0.74,P< .01; PDI −2.98 ± 1.04,P< .01), and ethyl arachidonate (MDI −2.40 ± 1.11,P= .03; PDI −3.32 ± 1.51,P= .03).


FAEE in meconium may be a marker for identifying newborns at risk for neurodevelopmental delay from alcohol exposure in utero.

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