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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Cocaine and metabolites in amniotic fluid may prolong fetal drug exposure.

OBJECTIVE: Cocaine and metabolites can be found in the amniotic fluid after maternal use, presumably as a result of fetal urination. The fetus may be repeatedly exposed to the effects of these drugs through contact with amniotic fluid that contains these substances. The purpose of this study was to determine whether the naive fetal lamb generates detectable fetal blood levels of cocaine and metabolites when cocaine is placed directly into the amniotic fluid and, if so, whether fetal swallowing accounts for these findings. STUDY DESIGN: Six pregnant ewes with singleton fetuses of 120 to 125 days' gestation were chronically catheterized for daily sampling of cocaine and metabolite levels in maternal venous plasma, fetal venous plasma, and amniotic fluid over a 7-day period. Esophageal ligation was performed in three additional animals similarly instrumented to evaluate the role of fetal swallowing in the distribution of amniotic fluid cocaine and its metabolites. In each case, at the time of surgery, an Alzet osmotic pump delivering cocaine at 0.5 mg/kg estimated fetal weight per hour into the amniotic fluid was secured to the fetal back. Cocaine and metabolites (benzoylecgonine, ecgonine methyl ester, and norcocaine) were measured daily in material and fetal plasma, amniotic fluid, and meconium by solid-phase extraction and derivatization and quantified by high-performance gas chromatographic techniques. RESULTS: The concentrations of ecgonine methyl ester were highest in the amniotic fluid followed by cocaine and benzoylecgonine. In the normal and esophagus-ligated groups, cocaine, benzoylecgonine, and norcocaine were found in fetal plasma in concentrations of approximately 3% that of amniotic fluid. Ecgonine methyl ester was not detected in fetal plasma from either group. Meconium samples from sheep with and without esophageal ligation demonstrated high levels of norcocaine. CONCLUSION: We conclude that cocaine and metabolites in amniotic fluid enter the fetal circulation to produce detectable plasma levels through routes other than swallowing. Moreover, the results of meconium analyses in the two groups of fetuses suggest that fetal swallowing is not the primary mechanism by which cocaine and metabolites enter the intestine.[1]


  1. Cocaine and metabolites in amniotic fluid may prolong fetal drug exposure. Mahone, P.R., Scott, K., Sleggs, G., D'Antoni, T., Woods, J.R. Am. J. Obstet. Gynecol. (1994) [Pubmed]
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