The PASS Network was established in 2003 as a partnership between NICHD's Pregnancy and Perinatology Branch (PPB) and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders joined the partnership in 2009.
PASS is designed to conduct community-linked studies to investigate the role of prenatal exposure to alcohol in Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and adverse pregnancy outcomes, such as stillbirth and fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs) and how SIDS and these other outcomes may be interrelated. It is hoped that this knowledge will help women, families, physicians, and scientists find ways to improve pregnancy outcomes and infant health.
PASS has two primary clinical sites:
- Northern Plains of North America (in South Dakota and North Dakota)
- Western Cape of South Africa
In addition, the network relies on three analysis centers—a data coordinating and analysis center (DCAC), a developmental biology and pathology center, and a physiology assessment center—to gather and maintain data and to conduct specific types of analyses of study data.
PASS aims to determine:
- The association between prenatal exposure to alcohol and risk of SIDS, stillbirth, FASD, and other adverse outcomes
- The role of the timing, pattern, and amount of prenatal exposure to alcohol and other environmental factors in the risk of morbidity and mortality in early human life
- The role of genomic variation in modifying the risk of morbidity and mortality in early life that is associated with prenatal exposure to alcohol
- The role of exposure to alcohol during pregnancy and of interactions between exposure to alcohol and environmental and genetic modifiers in altering profiles of autonomic activity of the fetus and infant and neurologic, audiologic, and neurobehavioral outcomes in the infant
- The role of maternal exposure to alcohol, as influenced by specific environmental and genetic factors, in the impairment of placental function and the increased risk of fetal and/or infant morbidity and mortality
- The abnormalities in key neurotransmitter systems in the brains of fetuses and/or infants that convey risk for sudden death and the role of prenatal exposure to alcohol, as influenced by specific environmental and genetic factors, in their pathogenesis
The Safe Passage Study is currently the main study run by the PASS network to understand the causes of SIDS, stillbirth, FASD, and other outcomes, especially those related to alcohol exposure at any time during pregnancy. The study will enroll approximately 12,000 pregnant women from the United States and South Africa and will follow the development of their fetuses during pregnancy and the infants' first year after birth. The long-term goals of the Safe Passage Study are to decrease fetal and infant mortality and to improve child health in communities at high risk of prenatal maternal consumption of alcohol.