Cord blood FGF-21 and GDF-15 levels are affected by maternal exposure to moderate to severe anemia and malaria

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CONTEXT: Anemia and malaria are global health problems affecting >50% of pregnant women in sub-Saharan Africa and are associated with intrauterine growth restriction. The hormones fibroblast growth factor 21 (FGF-21) and growth differentiation factor 15 (GDF-15) are involved in metabolic regulation and are expressed in the placenta. No studies exist on FGF-21 and GDF-15 responses to exposures of malaria and anemia in pregnancy.

OBJECTIVE AND METHODS: Using a prospective, longitudinal pregnancy and birth cohort of women with an average age of 26 years from a rural region in northeastern Tanzania, we examined if FGF-21 and GDF-15 levels in maternal blood at week 33 ± 2 (n = 301) and in cord blood at birth (n = 353), were associated with anemia and malaria exposure at different time points in pregnancy and with neonatal anthropometry.

RESULTS: Among mothers at gestation week 33 ± 2, lower FGF-21 levels were observed after exposure to malaria in the first trimester, but not anemia, whereas GDF-15 levels at week 33 ± 2 were not associated with malaria nor anemia. In cord blood, moderate to severe anemia at any time point in pregnancy was associated with higher levels of FGF-21, whereas malaria exposure in the third trimester was associated with lower FGF-21 levels in cord blood. Negative associations were observed between cord blood FGF-21 and GDF-15 levels and neonatal skinfold thicknesses and birthweight.

CONCLUSION: Our results suggest that moderate to severe anemia throughout pregnancy associates with higher FGF-21 levels, and malaria in last trimester associates with lower FGF-21 levels, in the neonates, thereby potentially affecting the future cardiometabolic health of the child.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of the Endocrine Society
Issue number10
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 2023

Bibliographical note

© The Author(s) 2023. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Endocrine Society.

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