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Keywords:

  • anticonvulsants;
  • developmental delay;
  • folic acid;
  • malformations;
  • MTHFR mutation

Around 6% of infants born to mothers taking anticonvulsants have malformations, including neural tube defects, and a further proportion show developmental delay in later childhood. Three commonly used anticonvulsants, carbamazepine, phenytoin and sodium valproate, interfere with folic acid metabolism. We investigated the common 677 C>T mutation in the methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR) gene in samples from 57 patients and their parents and 152 controls to determine its contribution to the risk of fetal anticonvulsant syndrome. The 677 C>T mutation frequency was significantly higher in the mothers than in the controls, but there was no significant difference in 677 C>T frequency in the patients or in the fathers. Genotype frequencies in the mothers were significantly different from controls, there being an excess of 677 C>T homozygotes. Amongst the patients, there was an apparent excess of heterozygotes (not statistically significant), and the fathers were not significantly different from controls. Mutation in the MTHFR gene in a mother taking sodium valproate, phenytoin or carbamazepine during pregnancy is associated with fetal anticonvulsant syndrome in her offspring. The skewed distribution of genotypes in the affected children probably reflects the association of fetal anticonvulsant syndrome with the maternal genotype.