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Is it time for Newborn Screening for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders ? A Commentary

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Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is one of the most common causes of acquired mental retardation in the United States and worldwide. The fetal brain is highly susceptible to the teratogenic effects of alcohol from maternal consumption during pregnancy resulting in newborns with mental deficits and congenital malformations. FAS diagnosis is difficult to diagnose in newborns where distinct anatomical defects are not apparent from mothers of moderate to light alcohol use. Hence, medical diagnoses are often not ascertained until mid-childhood after irreparable brain damage has already occurred. Such infants will have been deprived of available socioclinical interventions, trainings, measures, and future treatments that may someday be implemented soon after birth. Presently, there are no FASD newborn biomarker screening programs in place despite cost benefit analyses revealing an annual societal cost of $1.3 million per FASD incident case. Since newborn biomarkers have been reported in the biomedical literature, can we afford not to implement newborn screening for FASD?


newborn, alcohol, mental retardation, cost/benefit, screening, prevalence

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