Quantification of fatty acid ethyl esters (FAEE) and ethyl glucuronide (EtG) in meconium from newborns for detection of alcohol abuse in a maternal health evaluation study

Anal Bioanal Chem. 2010 Apr;396(7):2469-77. doi: 10.1007/s00216-010-3474-5. Epub 2010 Feb 10.


Fatty acid ethyl esters (FAEE) and ethyl glucuronide (EtG) were determined in 602 meconium samples in a maternal health evaluation study for detection of gestational alcohol consumption. A validated headspace solid phase microextraction method in combination with GC-MS was used for FAEE and the cumulative concentration of ethyl palmitate, ethyl linoleate, ethyl oleate, and ethyl stearate with a cut-off of 500 ng/g was applied for interpretation. A new and simple method was developed and validated for quantification of EtG from 10-20 mg meconium with D(5)-EtG as internal standard consisting of 30 min. extraction with methanol/water (1:1, v/v), evaporation of methanol, filtration of the aqueous solution through a cellulose filter and injection into LC-MS-MS. The limits of detection and quantification for EtG were 10 and 30 ng/g, the recovery 86.6 to 106.4% and the standard deviation of the concentrations ranged from 13% at 37 ng/g to 5% at 46,700 ng/g (N = 6). FAEE above the cut-off were found in 43 cases (7.1%) with cumulative concentrations between 507 and 22,580 ng/g and with one outlier of about 150,000 ng/g (EtG not detected). EtG was detected in 97 cases (16.3%) and concentrations between LOD and 10,200 ng/g with another outlier of 82,000 ng/g (FAEE 10,500 ng/g). Optimal agreement between the two markers was obtained with a cut-off for EtG of 274 ng/g and 547 cases with both FAEE- and EtG-negative, 33 cases with both FAEE- and EtG-positive, nine cases with FAEE-positive and EtG-negative, and seven cases with FAEE-negative and EtG-positive. Differences in physical, chemical, and biochemical properties and in the pharmacokinetic behavior are discussed as reasons for the deviating cases. In none of the 602 cases, serious alcohol consumption was reported by the mothers and no evidence for gestational ethanol exposure was observed in the medical investigation of the newborns. It is concluded that the combined use of FAEE and EtG in meconium as markers for fetal alcohol exposure essentially increases the accuracy of the interpretation and helps to avoid false positive and false-negative results.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Alcoholism / diagnosis*
  • Biomarkers / analysis
  • Chromatography, Liquid / methods*
  • Esters / analysis
  • Fatty Acids / analysis*
  • Female
  • Glucuronates / analysis*
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Maternal Welfare
  • Meconium / chemistry*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / diagnosis*
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / diagnosis*
  • Spectrometry, Mass, Electrospray Ionization / methods*


  • Biomarkers
  • Esters
  • Fatty Acids
  • Glucuronates
  • ethyl glucuronide