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BACKGROUND: Prenatal Alcohol Exposure (PAE) impacts 2% to 5% of infants born in the United States yearly. Women who consume alcohol during pregnancy have a five-fold increased rate of Chorioamnionitis (CHORIO). Both PAE and CHORIO cause microstructural injury to multiple brain regions including major white matter tracts.

OBJECTIVE: Utilizing two previously established animal models, we hypothesized that the combination of PAE+CHORIO would result in greater deficits in myelination and structural integrity than PAE alone.

MATERIAL AND METHODS: Pregnant Long-Evans rats voluntarily drank 5% ethanol or saccharin until Gestational Day 19 (GD). On GD19, CHORIO was induced in one group of PAE dams by a 30 min uterine artery occlusion and injection of Lipopolysaccharide (LPS) into each amniotic sac. The remaining PAE dams and saccharin controls underwent sham surgery. Pups were born on GD22 and weaned on Postnatal Day 24 (PD). On PD28, offspring were sacrificed, and their brains examined using

RESULTS: Compared to control, PAE alone did not affect offspring birth weights, mortality or any DTI measures. In contrast, PAE+CHORIO significantly reduced offspring survival and, in surviving pups, increased Radial Diffusivity (RD) in medial frontal cortex and decreased Fractional Anisotropy (FA) in medial and ventral frontal cortex and within capsular regions.

CONCLUSION: The combination of moderate PAE+CHORIO results in an increased mortality, concomitant with diffuse microstructural brain injury noted in young adolescent offspring at PD28. Future studies should examine the extent to which PAE exacerbates the damage caused by CHORIO alone and whether these deficits persist into adulthood.

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Ann Pediatr Res