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Variability in the efficacy of a standardized antenatal steroid treatment is not due to maternal or fetal plasma drug levels. Evidence from a sheep model of pregnancy.

Takahashi, T., Saito, M., Schmidt, A.F., Usuda, H., Takahashi, Y., Watanabe, S., Hanita, T., Sato, S., Kumagai, Y., Koshinami, S., Ikeda, H., Carter, S., Clarke, M., Fee, E.L., Yaegashi, N., Newnham, J.P., Jobe, A.H. and Kemp, M.W. (2020) Variability in the efficacy of a standardized antenatal steroid treatment is not due to maternal or fetal plasma drug levels. Evidence from a sheep model of pregnancy. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 223 (6). 921.e1-921.e10.

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Antenatal steroids (ANS) are standard of care for women judged to be at imminent risk of preterm delivery. Worldwide, there is significant variation in ANS dosing strategy, selection for treatment criteria, and agent choice. This, combined with very limited optimization of ANS use per se means that treatment efficacy is highly variable and the rate of respiratory distress syndrome is decreased perhaps as little as 40%. In some cases, ANS use is associated with limited benefit and potential harm.

We hypothesized that individual differences in maternal and fetal steroid exposure would contribute to observed variability in ANS treatment efficacy. Using a chronically catheterized sheep model of pregnancy, we aimed to explore the relationship between materno-fetal steroid exposure and ANS treatment efficacy as determined by functional lung maturation in preterm lambs undergoing ventilation.

Ewes carrying a single fetus had surgery to catheterize a fetal and maternal jugular vein at 119 days’ gestation. Animals recovered for 24h before being randomized to either: i) a single maternal intramuscular injection (IM) of 2ml saline (Negative Control Group, n=10); or ii) a single maternal IM of 0.25mg/kg betamethasone phosphate + acetate (ANS Group, n=20). Serial maternal and fetal plasma samples were collected from each animal over 48h before fetuses were delivered and ventilated for 30 minutes. Total and free plasma betamethasone concentration was measured by mass spectrometry. Fetal lung tissue was collected for analysis using quantitative polymerase chain reaction.

One animal of the Control Group and one animal from the ANS Group had did not complete their treatment protocol and were removed from analyses. Animals in the ANS Group were divided into a Responder (n=12/19) Sub-Group and a Non-Responder Sub-Group (n=7/19) using a cut-off of a PaCO2 at 30 minutes ventilation within 2SD of the mean value from saline-treated Negative Control Group animals. While ANS improved fetal lung maturation in the undivided ANS group, and in the Responder Sub-Group both physiologically (blood gas and ventilation related data) and biochemically (mRNA expression related to fetal lung maturation), these values were not improved relative to saline-treated Control Group animals in the ANS Non-Responder Sub-Group. Interestingly, no differences in betamethasone distribution, clearance, or protein binding were identified between the ANS Responder and Non-Responder Sub-Groups.

This study correlated individual materno-fetal steroid exposures with preterm lung maturation as determined by pulmonary ventilation. Herein, approximately 40% of preterm lambs exposed to antenatal steroids had lung maturation not significantly different to saline-treated Control Group animals. These non-responsive animals received maternal and fetal betamethasone exposures identical to animals that had a significant improvement in functional lung maturation. These data suggest that the efficacy of ANS therapy is not solely determined by materno-fetal drug levels, and that individual fetal or maternal factors may play a role in determining treatment outcomes in response to glucocorticoid-driven signaling.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Veterinary and Life Sciences
Publisher: Elsevier for Mosby Inc.
Copyright: © 2020 Elsevier Inc.
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