What is thalidomide embryopathy?
Thalidomide embryopathy is a collection of abnormalities that result in an infant that has been exposed to the drug thalidomide in utero, or during pregnancy, at critical times of development. The most recognizable effects of thalidomide embryopathy are limb reduction defects, including complete absence of limbs. Other abnormalities including cardiac, or heart, defects, gastrointestinal defects, and abnormalities of the external ear are also commonly associated with thalidomide embryopathy.
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Are there other names for thalidomide embryopathy?
Thalidomide embryopathy may also be referred to as fetal thalidomide syndrome.
What is thalidomide?
Thalidomide is a sedative agent that changes the body's immune response by reducing the ability of the body to grow new blood vessels. Today, it is used for treatment of several medical conditions, including leprosy, cancer, and complications from HIV infection.
What was thalidomide used for in the past before thalidomide embryopathy was diagnosed?
In this 1950s, thalidomide was first marketed as a safe sedative with minimal side effects and sold under a variety of drug names. The drug was also combined with other medications to treat a variety of conditions including migraines, asthma, hypertension, and nausea.
Several years after the introduction of thalidomide, doctors began noticing an increase in limb abnormalities in populations where thalidomide was widely used and prescribed. The teratogenic effects of thalidomide were discovered in the 1960s, and subsequently, thalidomide was taken off of the market.
- Smithells, R. W., and C. G. Newman. "Recognition of thalidomide defects."Journal of medical genetics 29.10 (1992): 716.
How many individuals does thalidomide embryopathy affect?
During the 1950s before the effects of thalidomide were known, over 4,000 infants were born with the features of thalidomide embryopathy to mothers who had used the drug. Additionally, in South America where thalidomide is widely prescribed for the treatment of leprosy, 35 infants with thalidomide embryopathy have been reported. Regulatory agencies hope that with the extensive research and education efforts about the effects of thalidomide, they can help prevent another generation of infants with thalidomide embryopathy.
- CAVALCANTI, DP, et al. "Thalidomide, a current teratogen in South America." Teratology 54 (1996): 273-277.