HealthDay News — A prenatal blood test may help identify infants at risk for fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, according to a study published in PLOS ONE.

Researchers at the Texas A&M College of Medicine, the University of California San Diego School of Medicine, and the Omni-Net Birth Defects Prevention Program in Ukraine examined the health and drinking histories of 68 pregnant women in western Ukraine, along with blood samples collected during the second and third trimesters of their pregnancies.

The investigators found that moderate to high levels of drinking during early pregnancy were associated with significant alterations in circulating microRNAs in maternal blood. These differences were particularly notable in mothers whose infants demonstrated physical or neurobehavioral signs of alcohol effects in the first year of life.

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“Collectively, our data indicate that maternal plasma microRNAs may help predict infant outcomes and may be useful to classify difficult-to-diagnose fetal alcohol spectrum disorder subpopulations,” Rajesh Miranda, PhD, of the Texas A&M College of Medicine and co-senior author of the article, said in a Texas A&M news release. “We hope this work will lead to a test that can allow health care providers to identify the mothers and infants most at risk and provide them with extra care for the best outcome possible.”

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Balaraman S, Schafer JJ, Tseng AM, et al. Plasma miRNA Profiles in Pregnant Women Predict Infant Outcomes following Prenatal Alcohol Exposure. PLoS ONE. 2016;11(11):e0165081.