[ Back to EurekAlert! ] Public release date: 10-Jun-2009
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Contact: Graeme Baldwin
graeme.baldwin@biomedcentral.com
44-020-319-22165
BioMed Central

Cocaine and heroin harm placenta

Cocaine and heroin increase permeability of the placenta. Researchers writing in BioMed Central's open access journal Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology have shown that exposure to the drugs causes an increase in the passage of some chemicals into the fetus.

Antoine Malek led a team of researchers from Zurich University Hospital's Department of Obstetrics, who used a perfusion technique to study human placental tissue function in the lab. They found that exposure to cocaine and/or heroin in the presence of methadone increased transfer of a test chemical called antipyrine across the organ. Malek said, "As the consumption of illegal drugs, especially cocaine, is increasing in many countries, our results concerning cocaine and heroin causing an increased antipyrine transfer may improve the practical management in monitoring pregnant women".

As complete abstinence is impossible for many people addicted to drugs who become pregnant, maintenance treatment with methadone is often used to limit damage to the developing child. However, methadone itself can also be dangerous, too much fetal exposure leading to harmful withdrawal symptoms in the newborn. Malek and his colleagues sought to investigate the effects cocaine and heroin on the placenta. They found that while the narcotics didn't increase transfer of methadone, they did allow transfer of other test substances. This suggests the barrier function of the placenta may be compromised. According to Malek "More toxic substances or bacteria and viruses may cross the placenta and harm the fetus. Previous studies have reported increased prevalence of infectious diagnoses in cocaine-exposed infants".

These results emphasise the fact that pregnant drug users who can't abstain completely must attempt to exclusively use methadone. Combining it with other drugs could cause extra harm to their child.

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Notes to Editors

1. The impact of cocaine and heroin on the placental transfer of methadone
Antoine Malek, Cristina Obrist, Silvana Wenzinger and Ursula von Mandach
Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology (in press)

During embargo, article available here: http://www.rbej.com/imedia/1003000742264895_article.pdf?random=577414

After the embargo, article available at the journal website: http://www.rbej.com/

Please name the journal in any story you write. If you are writing for the web, please link to the article. All articles are available free of charge, according to BioMed Central's open access policy.

Article citation and URL available on request at press@biomedcentral.com on the day of publication.

2. Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology (RB&E) is an Open Access, peer-reviewed, online journal aiming for the wide distribution of results from excellent research in the reproductive sciences.

RB&E represents a global platform for reproductive and developmental biologists, reproductive endocrinologists, immunologists, theriogenologists, infertility specialists, obstetricians, gynecologists, andrologists, urogynecologists, specialists in menopause, reproductive tract oncologists, and reproductive epidemiologists.

3. BioMed Central (http://www.biomedcentral.com/) is an STM (Science, Technology and Medicine) publisher which has pioneered the open access publishing model. All peer-reviewed research articles published by BioMed Central are made immediately and freely accessible online, and are licensed to allow redistribution and reuse. BioMed Central is part of Springer Science+Business Media, a leading global publisher in the STM sector.



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