New York: Analysis of a newborn’s first stool can alert doctors whether a child is at risk of problems with intelligence and reasoning, new research shows.
In particular, high levels of fatty acid ethyl esters (FAEE) found in the meconium (a newborn’s first stool) from a mother’s alcohol use during pregnancy can alert doctors that a child may develop cognitive problems in teenage years, the findings showed.
“We wanted to see if there was a connection between FAEE level and their cognitive development during childhood and adolescence — and there was,” said one of the researchers Meeyoung Min, research assistant professor at Case Western Reserve University in the US.
“FAEE can serve as a marker for fetal alcohol exposure and developmental issues ahead,” Min added.
“Detecting prenatal exposure to alcohol at birth could lead to early interventions that help reduce the effects later,” Min said in the study published in the Journal of Paediatrics.
The research is part of the ongoing Project Newborn study, a longitudinal research project has studied nearly 400 children for 20 years since their births in the mid-1990s.
For this study, researchers analysed the meconium of 216 babies for levels of FAEE. They then gave intelligence tests at ages nine, 11 and 15.
The researchers found a link between those with high levels of FAEE at birth and lower IQ scores.
They call her the “young miracle.” A baby who was admitted to an Ebola treatment center just six days after birth has now recovered from the virus.
Congo’s health ministry calls the baby the youngest survivor in what is now the world’s second-deadliest Ebola outbreak.
The ministry late Thursday tweeted a photo of the infant, swaddled and with her tiny mouth open in yawn or squall, surrounded by caregivers who watched over her 24 hours a day for weeks.
The baby’s mother, who had Ebola, died in childbirth, the ministry said.
The infant was discharged Wednesday from the treatment center in Beni. “She went home in the arms of her father and her aunt,” the ministry said.
Experts have reported high numbers of children with Ebola in this outbreak, which Congo’s health ministry says has 515 cases, 467 of them confirmed, including 255 confirmed deaths.
The tiny survivor is named Benedicte. In video footage shared by UNICEF, she is shown in an isolated treatment area, cradled in the arms of health workers in protective gear or cuddled by Ebola survivors, called “nounous,” who can go without certain gear such as masks. The survivors are crucial with their reassuring presence, the health ministry said.
“This is my first child,” her father, Thomas, said. “I truly don’t want to lose her. She is my hope.” He gazed at his baby daughter through the clear protective plastic.
Children now account for more than one-third of all cases in this outbreak, UNICEF said earlier this week. One in 10 Ebola cases is in a child under 5 years old, it said, and children who contract the hemorrhagic fever are at greater risk of dying than adults.
While Ebola typically infects adults, as they are most likely to be exposed to the lethal virus, children have been known in some instances to catch the disease when they act as caregivers.
Few cases of Ebola in babies have historically been reported, but experts suspect transmission might happen via breast milk or close contact with infected parents. Ebola is typically spread by infected bodily fluids.
The World Health Organization also has noted that health centers have been identified as a source of Ebola transmission in this outbreak, with injections of medications “a notable cause.”
So far, more than 400 children have been left orphaned or unaccompanied in this outbreak as patients can spend weeks in treatment centers, UNICEF said. A kindergarten has opened next to one treatment center in Beni “to assist the youngest children whose parents are isolated” there, it said.
Health experts have said this Ebola outbreak, the 10th in Congo, is like no other as they face the threat of attack from armed groups and resistance from a wary population in a region that had never faced an Ebola outbreak before. Tracking suspected contacts of Ebola victims remains a challenge in areas controlled by rebels.