Pharmacogenetics of drug-induced birth defects: what is known so far?

Bob WilffertLolkje T W de Jong-van den Berg


A literature review was performed to collect information on the role of pharmacogenetics in six proposed teratogenic mechanisms associated with drug use during pregnancy: folate antagonism, oxidative stress, angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibition and angiotensin II receptor antagonism, cyclooxygenase-1 and -2 inhibition, 5-hydroxytryptamine-reuptake inhibition and drug transporters in the placenta. Data on the direct relationship between pharmacogenetics and drug-induced birth defects were found for folate metabolism, oxidative stress caused by phenytoin exposure and drug transporters in the placenta. Although no specific data to support pharmacogenetic-related birth defects were found for the NSAIDs, paroxetine and fluoxetine, it might be expected that polymorphisms modify their teratogenic effects. The usually low prevalence of drug-induced malformations impedes the demonstration of the contribution of pharmacogenetics. Large-scale studies, preferably case-control studies, are needed.


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Birth Defects

Birth defects encompass structural and functional alterations that occur during embryonic or fetal development and are present since birth. The cause may be genetic, environmental or unknown and can result in physical and/or mental impairment. Here is the latest research on birth defects.

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