Research from three Ontario universities sheds new light on the risks associated with cannabis use during pregnancy, finding the psychoactive component of the drug restricts oxygen and nutrients from crossing through the placenta.
The study from researchers at Queen’s, Western and McMaster universities, published in the journal Scientific Reports on Friday, found exposure to low doses of THC – equivalent to a daily joint – led to lower birth weights and organ sizes in rats.
“With legalization of cannabis in Canada, there’s a lot of misinformation out there about whether it’s safe for use in pregnancy. The reality is that (people think) because cannabis is legal it therefore must be safe, which is not necessarily true,” said Daniel Hardy of Western University in London, Ont., one of the study’s co-authors.
Health Canada has long warned against cannabis use during pregnancy, also noting its effects on brain development and birth weight. But the reasoning behind those negative effects – and a definitive link to THC – were not understood until now, the researchers said.
Hardy noted that some American studies suggest as many as one in five pregnant women are using cannabis to treat things such as anxiety and nausea, believing that because it’s natural, it must be safe.
But he said the new research adds to the growing body of evidence suggesting otherwise, at least when it comes to use during pregnancy.
The researchers found that rats exposed to THC daily gave birth to babies that were eight per cent smaller than usual. Their brains and livers were more than 20 per cent smaller than what’s expected.
Hardy is now studying how the baby rats’ low birth weight affects them going forward.
“Three weeks later for a rat, they do catch up. They catch up in the brain and the liver,” he said. “That may sound good, however larger studies would suggest that this post-natal rapid catch-up growth is actually detrimental long term with respect to brain and metabolic health.”
The researchers noted that there have been other studies suggesting cannabis use during pregnancy leads to low birth weight, but those studies were on humans and may have been complicated by other factors.
“There hasn’t really been a study that looks at the different components of cannabis throughout gestation,” said David Natale of Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont., another of the study’s co-authors.
The data in human studies is also affected by other factors, such as socioeconomic status and other drug or cigarette use, all of which can affect birth weight, he said.
Studying rats allowed researchers to look at how the THC was affecting the fetuses, rather than just finding a correlation. The animal study also allowed researchers to examine THC specifically, rather than other components of cannabis such as CBD.
The researchers injected the pregnant rats with a small amount of THC every day, starting when the embryo was implanted.
They also studied the effect of THC on human placental cells, finding that it impeded their ability to transport glucose – a vital nutrient for growing fetuses.
“Going forward, we really want to try to figure out if it’s different times during pregnancy, or if it’s throughout pregnancy, and at this point we just don’t know,” Natale said.
He said he hopes to see more research in this vein going forward, given the popularity of cannabis.
“To be able to give clinicians something changeable to say, ‘Ok, listen, here’s a study that’s been done, and these are the results,’ it helps with education,” Natale said. “Because it’s just not out there in the public right now.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 17, 2020.
Dutch former queen Beatrix tests positive for COVID-19
Princess Beatrix, as she has been known since her abdication in 2013, got tested after coming down with “mild cold symptoms”, the statement said.
“The princess is at home in isolation and adheres to the rules of life for people who have tested positive,” it added.
The Netherlands has been experiencing a record-breaking wave of COVID-19 cases that is threatening to overwhelm the country’s healthcare system.
(Reporting by Stephanie van den Berg; Editing by Alex Richardson)
‘I was shocked’: Mother, child mistakenly given COVID-19 vaccine instead of flu shot – Comox Valley Record
A Manitoba mother says a routine appointment for her and her three-year-old to get flu shots ended in frustration and mixed messages after they were each mistakenly given an adult dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
Jenna Bardarson is calling for policy changes at the province’s vaccination centres to make sure that doesn’t happen to another family.
The shots were administered on Nov. 24 at the Keystone Centre in Brandon.
Bardarson says that shortly after she and her daughter, Dali, got their shots, the health worker who had given them excused herself to speak with a supervisor. When the worker returned, she told them she had made a mistake and given them both the adult Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
“I was shocked. I didn’t know what to say. My immediate concerns were, of course, would my daughter be OK and also who could I speak to about this,” Bardarson said in online social media messages Friday to The Canadian Press.
Once she got home, Bardarson made multiple calls to different departments with the regional medical authority, hoping to speak with someone about the error and her concerns, she said.
She said no one was able to provide her with the answers or information she needed. “The conversations with various Prairie Mountain Health members have been frustrating, to say the least.”
Bardarson said she already had two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine and was due for her booster shot next month. Her daughter is too young to be eligible.
Health Canada last month approved a pediatric version of the Pfizer shot for children ages five to 11, but it has not yet approved a vaccine for those under five.
Bardarson said she and her daughter had headaches and sore arms the following day. Her daughter had no appetite and was throwing up.
Manitoba Health confirmed the mistake in a statement and said staff from Prairie Mountain have reached out to the mother to discuss what happened as well as to provide an update on an investigation.
“Patient safety is a critical aspect of all health-care services in Manitoba. We are constantly reviewing our processes to ensure that our systems support our staff in preventing errors,” it said.
“In this case … our team reviewed the existing processes to make adjustments that would help avoid a similar error from occurring in the future.”
Bardarson said the health region has not provided her with updated information on the investigation and would not discuss any consequences the health worker may have faced.
Manitoba Health said no further action would be taken against the worker, because she immediately recognized the error and told a supervisor.
For Bardarson, that’s not enough.
“I by no means want her fired; however, there should be some sort of measures in place for harm reduction.”
Bardarson suggested taking away the worker’s injection privileges or enhanced supervision during vaccinations.
She said she would also like to see areas at vaccination centres separated by vaccine types, instead of having different vaccines offered in the same booth.
Manitoba Health could not say if others have been given a COVID-19 vaccine by mistake, but acknowledged that medication errors, although rare, do occur. It added that Bardarson was provided with information about the risks of the COVID-19 vaccine, which in this case it says are low.
Health Canada said it is not in charge of immunization monitoring and could not comment on whether similar mistakes have occurred in other parts of the country.
– Brittany Hobson, The Canadian Press
Two hippos in Belgian zoo test positive for COVID-19
Two hippos have tested positive for COVID-19 at Antwerp Zoo in Belgium in what could be the first reported cases in the species, zoo staff said.
Hippos Imani, aged 14, and 41-year-old Hermien have no symptoms apart from a runny nose, but the zoo said the pair had been put into quarantine as a precaution.
“To my knowledge, this is the first time in this species. Worldwide, this virus has been reported mainly in great apes and felines,” said the zoo’s vet, Francis Vercammen.
The coronavirus is thought to have jumped from an animal to a human, and it is proved to have passed from humans to animals.
Pets including cats, dogs and ferrets have become infected following contact with their owners, while in zoos, cases have been reported in animals such as big cats, otters, primates and hyenas.
The disease has also spread in mink farms and to wild animals, such as deer.
Antwerp Zoo is investigating the causes of the contagion. None of the zookeepers had recently shown COVID-19 symptoms or tested positive for the virus, the zoo said.
(Reporting by Francesco Guarascio; Editing by Helen Popper)
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