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Community Genet. 2004;7(2-3):76-94.

ECLAMC: the Latin-American collaborative study of congenital malformations.

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  • 1ECLAMC, Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Argentina. castilla@centrion.com.br

Abstract

DEFINITION:

ECLAMC ('Estudio Colaborativo Latino Americano de Malformaciones Congenitas') is a program for the clinical and epidemiological investigation of risk factors in the etiology of congenital anomalies in Latin-American hospitals, using a case-control methodological approach. It is a voluntary agreement among professionals lacking institutional base as well as designated budgets. ECLAMC has been usually funded by research-funding agencies rather than public health ministries. The National Research Councils of Argentina and Brazil have been the main sources of support during its 36 years of existence. Since vital and health statistics are unreliable in South America, ECLAMC collects all the information required for the denominators in a hospital-based sample of births. ECLAMC can be defined as a continental network of persons interested in research and prevention of birth defects.

HISTORY AND EVOLUTION:

From the institutional point of view, ECLAMC has had headquarters in diverse centers of Argentina and Brazil, but always as an independent research project, without a defined administrative link. ECLAMC began operating in 1967, as an investigation limited to the city of Buenos Aires, Argentina, and it gradually expanded until covering all the 10 countries of South America as well as Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic. Even though ECLAMC has maintained essentially the same original experimental design since 1967, due to the data accumulated by the program, the increasing experience as well as the development in science, technical modifications occurred including a DNA bank and a fully informatized data handling system. Since 1974 ECLAMC has been a founder member of the International Clearinghouse for Birth Defects Monitoring Systems; since 1994 a WHO Collaborating Center for the Prevention of Congenital Malformations, and since 2000 a collaborating member of the NIH Global Netwok for Women's and Children's Health Research.

METHODOLOGY:

The maternity hospital network of ECLAMC examines around 200,000 births per year. All major and minor anomalies diagnosed at birth in infants weighing 500 g or more are registered according to a manual of procedures. The next non-malformed baby of the same sex born in the same hospital is selected as a control subject for each case. Thus, a one-to-one healthy control group matched by sex, time and place of birth is obtained. As a system of epidemic surveillance, ECLAMC systematically observes the fluctuations in the frequencies of different malformations and, in the case of an alarm for a probable epidemic of a given malformation, at a given moment, and given area, it acts to identify its cause. As termination of pregnancy has severe legal restrictions in South America, prevention of birth defects should concentrate on primary, preconceptional and tertiary measures. Tertiary measures aim to avoid complications of the affected patients from the medical, psychological, and social standpoints.

Copyright (c) 2004 S. Karger AG, Basel.

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