The rate of serious birth defects is increasing in the United States, and a new report suggests that the condition may be related to opiate use.
The report, published on January 17 by researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, examines the cases of gastroesis, a birth defect in which the baby is born with its guts outside the body due to a hole in the abdominal wall. Surgery is necessary to put the intestines back into the body and repair the hole, but even after treatment, babies may have problems with digestion, nutrition and food absorption, according to the CDC. The reason for this condition is usually unknown, but mothers under the age of 20 are believed to be at higher risk for older mothers. From 2006 to 201
The new report follows an earlier study that finds that the rate of gastroesis has also increased between 1995 and 2012
The cause of the increase is unknown, but the new report suggests a link to the opiate epidemic . Researchers have found that the spread of gastroschis is 1.6 times higher in counties with high levels of opioid use compared to low opioid prescription
However, researchers note that the study only finds association and can not prove that the use of opiates causes gastroesis. The study examined the use of opioids and gastro-oesophageal levels only at population level and did not have information on whether women with babies with gastroschisis were exposed to opioids
. Saima Aftab, medical director of the Fetal Care Center at Niculaus Children's Hospital in Miami, who was not involved in the study, said that this increase in gastroesis is important. The fact that the rate is rising not only in women under 20, who are thought to be at highest risk, but also in older age groups, is "even worse," said Aftab Live Science. This suggests that "there is something that changes" in terms of the usual models of gastroesis epidemiology.
Aftab noted that she and her colleagues also noticed an increase in gastroesis in the hospital's program, even in the last six months.
Gastrosysis is a serious illness that can cause swelling, twisting and damage to the baby's gut before delivery, says Aftab. Even after the surgery, it may take weeks for bowel function to start, and babies may be in the NIH for months, she said.
The relationship with opioids in the new report is an interesting signal, Atab said, although he also warned that the report could not determine the causal link.
But "he guides where we should direct our research and how we can answer these questions," she said. For example, basic animal studies can examine whether opioids break down blood vessels or intestinal tissue when taken during pregnancy. And researchers can also look at whether there is a link between high-risk populations of women who use opioids during pregnancy.
Originally posted on Live Science .