Cocaine and heroin harm placenta

Jun 11, 2009

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 and 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.

Source: BioMed Central (news : web)

Explore further: Huge insect diversity revealed by genetic technologies

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Study shows how cocaine impairs fetal brain development

Jun 10, 2008

Exposure of the developing brain to cocaine can cause neurological and behavioral abnormalities in babies born to mothers who use the drug during pregnancy. In a study research published in this week's PLoS Medicine, Chun-T ...

100 percent contamination of Euro notes with Cocaine

Jan 10, 2007

An ongoing research project into the detection of illicit drug use has shown that of a sample of bank notes in current circulation in the greater Dublin area - €5, €10, €20 and €50 denominations - 100% of them showed ...

Recommended for you

Water 'thermostat' could help engineer drought-resistant crops

13 minutes ago

Duke University researchers have identified a gene that could help scientists engineer drought-resistant crops. The gene, called OSCA1, encodes a protein in the cell membrane of plants that senses changes in water availability ...

Biotech firm's GM mosquitoes to fight dengue in Brazil

12 hours ago

It's a dry winter day in southeast Brazil, but a steamy tropical summer reigns inside the labs at Oxitec, where workers are making an unusual product: genetically modified mosquitoes to fight dengue fever.

User comments : 0