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Researchers reach breakthrough in determining cause of SIDS

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Stephanie Pratt, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons
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Researchers from the Children’s Hospital in Sydney, Australia, recently released a study which sheds much light on Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). The study confirms how and why infants die of SIDS.

According to the Mayo Clinic, the medical community has believed SIDS may be part of a brain defect in the section which controls arousing from sleep and breathing. The belief was the defect would prevent the child from waking up if breathing ceased during sleep.

This was confirmed by Sydney Researchers who used dried blood samples from newborns who died of SIDS and compared to other blood samples. The research found the enzyme butyrylcholinesterase (BChE) activity was significantly lower in those who died of SIDS. BChE is an enzyme which plays a vital role in the brains arousal pathway. This explained why SIDS typically happens during sleep.

“It has long been considered that the cholinergic system may be involved in SIDS deaths but there are few studies investigating the enzymes AChE and BChE,” researchers stated in the study. “This finding represents the possibility for the identification of infants at risk for SIDS infants prior to death and opens new avenues for future research into specific interventions.”

The lead researcher, Dr. Carmel Harrington, was a parent who lost her son unexpectedly to SIDS. In an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Harrington offered a bit of comfort to parents who have placed the blame on themselves. “These families can now live with the knowledge that this was not their fault,” she said.

Researchers are turning to finding a solution to the issue now that the causes are known. Screening tests are likely to be developed to identify babies who are at risk of SIDS and in time, prevent it altogether.

“Further work investigating this area needs to be undertaken with urgency, to determine if specific activity of BChE could potentially be used as a biomarker to identify and prevent future SIDS deaths,” the study concludes.

 

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