(Sioux Falls, SD) – Data from a recent trip to South Africa for Sanford Health’s Gene Hoyme, MD, will be used to develop criteria for more accurate recognition of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) in infancy and early childhood. Early recognition of this continuum of disorders is critical as it provides children with access to intervention services sooner and improves their health outcomes.
Hoyme, one of the world’s leading researchers of FASD, chief academic officer for Sanford Health, and president of Sanford Research, last week returned from the Western Cape Province after examining a group of infants prenatally exposed to large amounts of alcohol. Working with a group of physicians, scientists and medical staff from the University of Stellenbosch School of Medicine in Cape Town, Hoyme and his colleagues examined 250 infants and reviewed data on 400 more. Physical and developmental characteristics were compared to normal control infants of a similar age.
“The rural communities of the Western Cape are home to the highest prevalence of FASD in the world; 8 to 10 percent of first-grade children are affected,” said Hoyme. “Our goal is to eventually eliminate this common cause of a completely preventable set of disabilities.”
Hoyme’s work in South Africa--part of an ongoing project funded by the National Institute of Health (NIH) now spanning 15 years--has established clinically applicable criteria for the diagnosis of FASD worldwide.
Further work in South Africa is contingent on a new five-year grant from NIH. That research would involve investigating genetic markers that indicate whether children were exposed to alcohol prenatally and that make certain infants more susceptible to alcohol. Funding would also provide classroom intervention strategies for children with FASD and case management techniques to decrease alcohol abuse among pregnant women. A follow up with earlier participants in the research would also be included.
“We will further investigate some 650 children in the infant cohort through age 7,” Hoyme said. “Accurate diagnosis of FASD at age 7 in this cohort will allow us to look back at our data from infancy to determine which characteristics were most predictive of FASD at school age.”
In June, Hoyme received national recognition for his leadership in research by the National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (NOFAS) and was awarded their 2012 Excellence Award. His research focuses on the delineation of genetic and malformation syndromes associated with FASD.
About Sanford Research/USD
Sanford Research/USD is a non-profit research organization formed between Sanford Health and the University of South Dakota. Sanford Health is an integrated health system headquartered in Fargo, ND and Sioux Falls, SD and represents the largest, rural, not-for-profit healthcare system in the nation with a presence in 111 communities, eight states and three countries. In 2007, a transformational gift of $400 million by Denny Sanford provided for an expansion of children’s and research initiatives, specifically finding a cure for type 1 diabetes, and has given Sanford Research significant momentum in its goal of becoming one of the premiere research institutions in the United States and the world. Most recently, a subsequent gift of $100 million by Mr. Sanford has paved the way to establish Edith Sanford Breast Cancer Research.
With a team of more than 200 researchers, Sanford Research comprises several research centers, including Children’s Health Research, Edith Sanford Breast Cancer, Cancer Biology, Cardiovascular Health, Center for Health Outcomes and Prevention, and the National Institute for Athletic Health and Performance (NIAHP).