Human teratogens: Update 2010


  • Lewis B. Holmes

    Corresponding author
    1. Genetics Unit, Massachusetts General Hospital for Children, and Department of Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts
    • Genetics Unit, Mass General Hospital for Children, 175 Cambridge Street, Boston, MA 02114-2696
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A wide variety of human teratogens have been identified. The characteristics of human teratogens can be used in the assessment of apparent “new” teratogens, when postulated. Information is available through online databases, such as TERIS and Reprotox, telephone-based counseling resources (e.g., Organization of Teratogen Information Systems [OTIS] and European Network Teratology Information Services [ENTIS]), reference books, annual meetings of the Teratology Society, and published articles. There are significant deficiencies in the information available: (1) lack of knowledge about the molecular and cellular basis for most teratogenic effects; (2) the inability to genetically identify more susceptible women before pregnancy; (3) little information is available on dermal and airborne exposures during pregnancy; and (4) most clinicians receive little, if any, training in the identification of or counseling for exposure to potential teratogens. There are many current dilemmas in counseling about exposures in pregnancy, including: (1) Is exposure to specific drugs, such as selected serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and the inhibitors of tumor necrosis factor-alpha, teratogenic in the first trimester of pregnancy? (2) Are the increased risks of birth defects associated with assisted reproductive technology due, in part, to epigenetic effects? (3) What are the “safe” levels of exposure to the plasticizers phthalates during pregnancy? (4) How do we convince busy physicians, nurses, and pharmacists not to use the drug categories A, B, C, D, and X in counseling and to use more accurate sources? There is a need for a national advisory center for pregnancy registries to provide guidance when new registries are being developed. Birth Defects Research (Part A), 2011. © 2011 Wiley-Liss, Inc.