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Methamphetamine Crosses Placenta to Fetus

Hair sample analysis shows correlation between levels in mother and neonate

TUESDAY, Oct. 31 (HealthDay News) -- Methamphetamine, or "crystal meth," can cross the placenta from the mother to fetus, with a significant correlation between levels in mother and neonate, according to an analysis of hair samples published online Oct. 31 in the Fetal and Neonatal Edition of the Archives of Disease in Childhood.

Gideon Koren, M.D., and colleagues from the University of Toronto in Canada, tested 34,278 hair samples from 8,270 people for drugs between 1997 and 2005. Most subjects were women suspected of drug abuse and their children.

The researchers identified 396 people who were positive for methamphetamine (8 percent of those with positive results), including 11 mother-baby pairs. Methamphetamine levels were up to 51.97 ng/mg in mothers and up to 22.73 ng/mg in neonates, with a significant correlation between levels in the two. The authors note that 85 percent of methamphetamine users were also positive for at least one other drug, mostly cocaine.

"To our knowledge, this is the first report on fetal exposure to methamphetamine during pregnancy, showing transplacental transfer of the drug, with accumulation in fetal hair," Koren and colleagues conclude. "Hair measurement for methamphetamine in neonates is a useful screening method to detect intra-uterine exposure to the drug."

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