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28-10-2009 | Respiratory | Article

Prenatal acetaminophen exposure linked to risk for wheeze in children


Free abstract

MedWire News: Prenatal exposure to the analgesic acetaminophen is associated with an increased risk for wheeze among inner-city minority children, and this risk is influenced by a common functional polymorphism, results of a US study suggest.

“Acetaminophen has been associated with asthma and is in part metabolized via the glutathione pathway,” explain R Graham Barr (Columbia University, New York) and team in the journal Thorax.

They add: “The Val105 functional polymorphism in Glutathione S Transferase Pi (GSTP) is particularly common among Hispanics and African Americans, and has been associated with altered susceptibility to asthma and allergic responses with exposure to various air pollutants.”

To investigate the effects of prenatal acetaminophen exposure on the risk for wheeze at the age of 5 years, and whether the association is modified by common polymorphisms in genes related to the glutathione pathway, the team studied data from an ongoing, population-based birth cohort study of Dominican and African-American children in New York.

The mothers of 301 children completed questionnaires on the use of analgesics during pregnancy and the development of wheeze in their children at the age of 5 years. DNA samples from the children were also assessed for GST polymorphisms.

In total, 34.0% of the mothers reported using acetaminophen during pregnancy, and current wheeze was reported in 26.9% of children at the age of 5 years.

Analysis revealed that children who were prenatally exposed to acetaminophen were 1.7 times more likely to have current wheeze at the age of 5 years than children without such exposure. Furthermore, the risk for wheeze associated with prenatal acetaminophen exposure increased with increasing levels of exposure.

The team also found that prenatal acetaminophen exposure was strongly associated with wheeze in the 68% of children with the GSTP1 minor allele, whereas no association was evident among those homozygous for the major allele.

Barr and team conclude: “Prenatal acetaminophen exposure predicted asthma symptoms among African-American and Dominican children – a relationship that was stronger among children with the common GSTP1 minor allele.”

They add: “These findings might provide an explanation for some of the increased asthma risk in minority communities and suggest caution in the use of acetaminophen in pregnancy.”

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Current Medicine Group, a trading division of Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2009

By Mark Cowen

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