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February 1990

Agent B: Genetics and Litogens

Author Affiliations

The Genetics Center of Genetrix Inc. Southwest Biomedical Research Institute 4134 McGirts Blvd Jacksonville, FL 32210

Am J Dis Child. 1990;144(2):157-158. doi:10.1001/archpedi.1990.02150260035020

I wrote about agent A in August 1987.1 Agent A is a substance contained in a common household retail product. A pregnant woman used this product and gave birth to a son with microcephaly with subsequent mental retardation. A lawsuit was initiated on behalf of this child. The allegation was that agent A had crossed the placenta and injured his brain. This allegation was denied by the company that compounded the product containing agent A.

Agent A had never been found to damage infants during fetal development, and on independent medical examination the child was found to have an autosomal recessive form of microcephaly.2-4 Both parents carried the gene for microcephaly and each of their offspring had a one-fourth risk of having microcephaly. Therefore, agent A had nothing to do with the child's condition.

The outcome of lawsuits can be surprising, and juries can be unpredictable. The plaintiff

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