Disturbing Defects: Possible Link Between Fentanyl Exposure and Newborn Syndrome 

New syndrome in newborns exposed to fentanyl possibly found

In a troubling discovery, medical professionals have identified at least 10 newborns, and potentially more than 12, with a newly observed syndrome believed to be connected to exposure to fentanyl in the womb (Source: NBC News). These infants exhibit distinctive physical birth defects, including cleft palate and unusually small heads, raising concerns about the impact of fentanyl use during pregnancy.

The babies, all born to mothers who reported using street drugs, particularly fentanyl, showcased alarming similarities in their physical characteristics. No common genetic cause has been identified, intensifying the mystery surrounding this potential syndrome. Dr. Elizabeth Cherot, President of the March of Dimes, expressed concern, emphasizing the need for further investigation as shared characteristics emerge.

The revelation unfolded when six babies were identified at Nemours Children’s Health in Wilmington, Delaware, with additional cases in California, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. The connection between these infants came to light in August 2022, prompting genetic counselor Erin Wadman and her colleagues to delve into their findings, recently published in Genetics in Medicine Open.

The infants, aside from cleft palate, exhibit unusual physical features, including small bodies and heads, drooping eyelids, upward-turning noses, undersized lower jaws, webbed middle toes, and potential genital irregularities in baby boys. Some experience feeding difficulties and thumb malformation is observed. The physical similarities sparked a comparison to a known syndrome, Smith-Lemli-Opitz, characterized by genetic variants affecting cholesterol processing during fetal development.

While there is currently no conclusive proof linking fentanyl to these cases, astute clinicians at Nemours recognized a potentially critical trend. Dr. Sonja Rasmussen, a medical geneticist at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, praised their attentiveness, drawing parallels to the recognition of conditions like fetal alcohol syndrome and the identification of birth defects associated with Zika virus.

Despite the lack of conclusive evidence, the possibility of a link between fentanyl exposure and this new syndrome underscores the urgency of further research. It remains uncertain whether fentanyl itself or other substances in the drug supply contribute to these severe birth defects, emphasizing the need for a comprehensive investigation to safeguard maternal and fetal health.

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      Harsha Sharma

      Harsha is a senior content writer with numerous hobbies who takes great pride in spreading kindness. Earning a Postgraduate degree in Microbiology, she invests her time reading and informing people about various topics, particularly health and lifestyle. She believes in continuous learning, with life as her inspiration, and opines that experiences enrich our lives.

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