FEB 15, 2024 4:29 PM PST

Prenatal Opioid Exposure and its Subsequent Risk of Immunological Issues

WRITTEN BY: Greta Anne

A study published in the  Journal of the American Medical Association explores the intricate relationship between prenatal opioid exposure (POE) and the subsequent risk of immune-related conditions in children. The cohort comprised 0.4% of children with POE, revealing that neonates exposed to opioids were more likely to be born preterm and with low birth weight for gestational age.

Perinatal conditions were a focal point, revealing significant associations between POE and increased risk of perinatal infection, eczema, and dermatitis. Interestingly, neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) played a substantial role in these associations. For instance, the risk of perinatal infection increased when POE co-occurred with NAS, emphasizing the nuanced interplay between opioid exposure and withdrawal symptoms. 

The study demonstrated that the association between POE and perinatal infection was weakened when both POE and NAS were considered simultaneously. This highlights the importance of distinguishing between the effects of POE and NAS, suggesting that NAS might be a crucial factor in the development of certain immune-related conditions.

Beyond the perinatal period, the research identified associations between POE and an increased risk of childhood asthma, eczema, and dermatitis. However, the risk was not uniform across all conditions, with no association found for allergies, anaphylaxis, or autoimmune conditions. The study analyzed exposure by trimester, NAS diagnosis, and opioid indication for use, pain, or opioid use disorder (OUD).

There was a differential impact of opioids based on their indication. Children with POE from opioids used to treat OUD exhibited a higher risk of eczema and dermatitis, suggesting a potential link between opioid types and immune sensitivity. The research identified an increased risk of childhood infections associated with POE, particularly from opioids used for pain. The study delved into type-specific infections, revealing an elevated risk for enteric infections, neurological and eye infections, upper respiratory infections, lower respiratory infections, and other infections. 

This cohort study underscores the intricate relationship between prenatal opioid exposure and immune-related conditions in children. The findings suggest that the impact of POE on the developing immune system extends beyond the perinatal period, with implications for childhood asthma, eczema, and dermatitis.

Sources: Journal of the American Medical Association

About the Author
Bachelor's (BA/BS/Other)
Greta is currently a writer at Labroots and a 3rd year Doctor of Pharmacy student, with a Bachelor of Science degree in Physiology and Neurobiology. Innovation is her passion, especially when it comes to pharma, entrepreneurship, science, and art. She is hoping to pursue a career in pharma while also fostering her creative initiatives.
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