The precise quantitation of smoking during pregnancy is difficult in retrospective studies. Routinely collected blood specimens from newborns, stored as dried blood spots, may provide a low-cost method to objectively measure maternal smoking close to the time of delivery. This article compares cotinine levels in dried blood spots to those in umbilical cord blood to assess cotinine in dried blood spots as a biomarker of maternal smoking close to the time of delivery. The California Genetic Disease Screening Program provided dried blood spots from 428 newborns delivered in 2001-2003 with known umbilical cord blood cotinine levels. Cotinine in dried blood spots was measured in 6.35--mm punches by using liquid chromatography--tandem mass spectrometry (quantitation limit, 3.1 ng/mL). Repeated measures of cotinine in dried blood spots were highly correlated (R(2) = 0.99, P < 0.001) among 100 dried blood spots with cotinine quantitated in 2 separate punches. Linear regression revealed that cotinine levels in dried blood spots were slightly lower than those in umbilical cord blood and predicted umbilical cord blood cotinine levels well (β = 0.95, R(2) = 0.80, and P < 0.001 for both cotinine levels in log10 scale). When defining active smoking as a cotinine level of 10 ng/mL or more and using umbilical cord blood cotinine as the criterion standard, we found that measurements of cotinine in dried blood spots had high sensitivity (92.3%) and specificity (99.7%) in the prediction of maternal active smoking. Cotinine levels in dried blood spots are an accurate biomarker of maternal smoking close to the time of delivery.
Keywords: cotinine; dried blood spot; maternal smoking; newborn; pregnancy.