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Am J Hum Genet. 1982 Nov;34(6):980-7.

Etiologic heterogeneity of neural tube defects. II. Clues from family studies.


We previously reported that among neural tube defects (NTDs) with no known causes the ones that occur alone (singles) have different epidemiologic characteristics from those that occur in combination with other defects (multiples), suggesting an underlying causal heterogeneity. In this study, we compared family histories of 223 single NTD cases and 66 multiple cases ascertained through the Metropolitan Atlanta Congenital Defects Program (MACDP) between 1970 and 1979. Compared with siblings of multiples, siblings of singles had a higher precurrence rate for NTDs (2.0% vs. 0.0%) and for birth defects in general (10.9% vs. 3.0%). Furthermore, siblings of singles that were born within 2 years before the birth of the index case had a higher precurrence rate for NTDs (8.0% vs. 1.1%) and for major birth defects (20.0% vs. 2.9%) than had those born earlier. These results further suggest that NTDs are etiologically heterogeneous, depending on the presence of associated defects, and point to important environmental influences in the increased risk for birth defects among siblings of singles. Larger studies are needed to confirm these data and show that single and multiple NTDs have different recurrence rates, not only for NTDs but also for other birth defects.

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