Researchers Find Cause of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome

A baby’s feet are seen in a crib. (Photo by Fabian Strauch/Photo Alliance via Getty Images)

Scientists have published a new study that may provide groundbreaking insight into Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), an event that has previously baffled the medical community.

SIDS is the unexplained death of an apparently healthy baby less than a year old, usually during sleep, according to the Mayo Clinic. The CDC reports that SIDS accounted for 37% of infant deaths in the United States in 2019.

Now researchers at The Children’s Hospital of Westmead in Sydney, Australia, were able to confirm the cause of SIDS, which usually occurs when babies die suddenly in their sleep.

The medical community had previously believed that SIDS was caused by a complication in the part of the child’s brain that regulates breathing while sleeping.

In the latest study, researchers found that infants who died of SIDS had lower levels of an enzyme known as butyrylcholinesterase (BChE).

Scientists think this enzyme helps regulate pathways in the brain that control a person’s breathing, confirming what scientists had originally assumed.

“We conclude that a previously unidentified cholinergic deficiency, recognizable by abnormal -BChEsa, is present at birth in SIDS infants and represents a measurable, specific vulnerability prior to their death,” the researchers said.

dr. Carmel Harrington, an honorary researcher who led the study, said the findings were groundbreaking. Harrington said the study offered an explanation for SIDS and hoped to prevent deaths linked to this mysterious condition.

“An apparently healthy baby going to sleep and not waking up is every parent’s nightmare and until now there was absolutely no way of knowing which baby would succumb. But that’s not the case anymore. We found the first marker indicating vulnerability prior to death,” Harrington said in a press release.

The researchers explained that BChE plays a vital role in the brain’s arousal pathway. They further explained that a deficiency in BChE likely indicates an arousal deficit in babies, which would reduce their ability to awaken or respond to the external environment, making them more prone to SIDS.

“Babies have a very powerful mechanism for letting us know when they are unhappy. Usually, when a baby is faced with a life-threatening situation, such as difficulty breathing during sleep because they are lying on their stomach, they will wake up and the screaming out What this research shows is that some babies don’t have the same robust arousal response,” Harrington said.

dr. Matthew Harris, an emergency medicine pediatrician at Cohen Children’s Medical Center/Northwell Health in Long Island, New York, was not involved in the study, but told Fox News, “The study’s findings are interesting and important. Although the sample size is limited The study appears to indicate that lower levels of this enzyme are associated with a higher risk of SIDS. Importantly, this could provide an opportunity for both earlier screening for risk factors during the perinatal period, as well as giving scientists and physicians an opportunity to discover an intervention.”

How Parents Can Avoid SIDS, According to Pediatricians:

  • Lay your baby on his back for all sleeping times
  • Do not leave any loose blankets that could choke the child
  • Keeping infants in the parent’s or guardian’s sleeping area for at least six months, but not in the adults’ beds

FOX News contributed to this story.

Leave a Comment