Health officials have launched an investigation after three babies were born with rare hand deformations in the last four months at a German hospital.
“Between June 2019 and the beginning of September 2019, a total of three children with isolated one-sided malformations were born in the Obstetric Department of St. Mary's Hospital Buer,” wrote the hospital in a statement. “These children, all of whom were not seen by our clinic prenatally, were diagnosed with no further malformations.”
All born at Saint Mary’s Hospital, two children have a deformed left hand with “rudimentary” palms and fingers. A third child presented the same condition but in the right hand. Otherwise, the extent of the deformities is not clear, but Johns Hopkins Medicine notes a number of hand deformities that may be present at birth, including those that may have occurred after certain tissues, fingers, or bones failed to form or separate in the womb, duplications, overgrowth, or undergrowth of fingers, and other generalized problems with the skeletal system.
Doctors aren’t sure as to what caused the deformations and no ethnic, cultural, or social similarities have been identified in all three families other than they all live in the same area.
“We have not seen malformations of this kind for many years. Multiple occurrences now may also be a random accumulation. However, we find the brief period in which we are now seeing these three cases striking,” said the hospital, adding that statistically speaking only about 1 to 2 percent of all newborns are “born with a malformation of varying severity.”
Several infections and toxins can cause harm to the development of a fetus, particularly within the first two months after conception. The hospital also notes that amniotic band syndrome has been known to reduce the development of limbs. This occurs when the inner lining of the amniotic sack peels away and attaches to parts around the baby’s body to disrupt development, according to the Benioff Children’s Hospital Fetal Treatment Center in San Francisco.
The issue was first alerted to by a midwife who claims as many as 30 cases have occurred within the last year, she told the newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung. However, that number has not been verified by experts. Last year, it was revealed that 18 similar cases of limb deformity occurred between 2000 and 2014, seven of which were in October. Experts at the time blamed potential environmental issues, reports CNN.
Doctors examined the children and said they will continue to monitor their condition and collaborate with other local pediatricians to determine whether a single cause is to blame, though the task is difficult because there is no nationwide registry for malformations.