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Clin Toxicol (Phila). 2012 Dec;50(10):886-91. doi: 10.3109/15563650.2012.744997.

Blood levels of phosphatidylethanol in pregnant women reporting positive alcohol ingestion, measured by an improved LC-MS/MS analytical method.

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  • 1Department of Laboratory Medicine, Cheil General Hospital and Women's Healthcare Centre, Kwandong University School of Medicine, Seoul, Republic of Korea.



A reliable biomarker of low alcohol exposure during pregnancy is needed to clarify the controversy on the teratogenicity of low-to-moderate alcohol levels.


Blood samples were obtained from 13 pregnant women who self-reported alcohol ingestion between 2.5 and 20 drinks/week, and from 26 controls. Total lipids were extracted, and phosphatidylethanol (PEth) species 16:0/16:0, 16:0/18:1, and 16:0/18:1 were separated by high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) on a reverse-phase phenyl column. These PEth species were quantified by MS/MS using phosphatidylpropanol as internal standard, with electrospray ionization and MRM.


PEth species were not detected in women who abstained from alcohol ingestion during pregnancy, whereas PEth-16:0/18:1 was > 5 nmol/L in those with positive alcohol ingestion. PEth species were detected for up to 4 weeks after cessation of exposure.


PEth-16:0/18:1 was detected in pregnant women at 4-6 weeks after their last low-to-moderate alcohol ingestion, and therefore appears to be a reliable biomarker of prenatal alcohol exposure to study the teratogenicity of alcohol at these exposure levels.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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