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This one is about: Dextromethorphan Linked to Birth Defects


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Dextromethorphan Linked To Birth Defects (Cleft/miscarriage mentioned)

WESTPORT (Reuters) -- Dextromethorphan, an ingredient in some cough medicines, has been shown to cause birth defects and fetal death in chicken embryos exposed to concentrations relative to those typically taken by humans, according to a paper in the January issue of Pediatric Research.

Dr. Thomas H. Rosenquist and colleagues at the University of Nebraska gave chicken embryos various doses (5, 50 or 500 nanomoles/deciliter) of dextromethorphan over three consecutive days. More than half of those given the highest dose died, while about one-eighth of the survivors developed congenital defects including "..neural tube defects such as spina bifida, facial defects similar to cleft palate, as well as cranial defects," a University press release explains.

"Dextromethorphan was also highly lethal at 50 nmol/embryo/d," the team writes in the Pediatric Research paper.

According to Rosenquist, these findings add weight to recently reported findings from the Baltimore-Washington Infant Study in which a history of cough medicine use emerged as a risk factor for congenital malformations.

"We found that dextromethorphan causes defects so early in the development of the embryo that in many cases the woman wouldn't even know she is pregnant," Rosenquist said in the statement. "We feel that a single dose is capable of causing a birth defect and that, ultimately, it could be the cause for a woman to have a miscarriage."

Dextromethorphan suppresses cough by acting on receptors in the adult central nervous system. But in embryos, the drug appears to "knock out" the receptors, thus leading to the defects.

Further study is needed, but in the meantime, Rosenquist suggests that pregnant women be advised not to use dextromethorphan-containing cough medicine.

"Although we used chicken embryos in our study, modern molecular biology shows that the same genes regulate early development in virtually all species -- from insects to worms to humans," said Rosenquist. "Based on this, it can be predicted that the effects dextromethorphan had on the chicken embryos also would occur in human babies."

SOURCE: Pediatric Research (1998;43:1-7)

Reut18:44 01-15-98
(15 Jan 1998 18:43 EST)


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