SIDS breakthrough? Possible sudden infant death syndrome biomarker identified

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Babies at risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) may be identified through a biochemical marker, a new study published in The Lancet’s eBioMedicine finds.

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.

Researchers investigating the cause of SIDS at the Children’s Hospital of Westmead (CHW) in Australia said they have identified the first biochemical marker that could help detect babies who are more at risk for SIDS while still alive.

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.

Doctors applaud a potential breakthrough in the mystery of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
(iStock, file)

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According to the study, the Australian researchers analyzed levels of a specific enzyme called butyrylcholinesterase (BChE), in 722 dried blood spots (DBS) taken at birth as part of a newborn screening program. They measured BChE levels in babies who died of SIDS and other causes, each compared to 10 surviving babies of the same birth date and gender.

The researchers found lower levels of BChE in babies who died of SIDS compared to live control groups of infants and other non-SIDS-related infant deaths, according to the published report.

“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.

The SIDS study could bring researchers closer to solving the health mystery.

The SIDS study could bring researchers closer to solving the health mystery.
(iStock, file)

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.

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One doctor noted that the sample size of the study was limited.

One doctor noted that the sample size of the study was limited.
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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.”

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Harris added: “We are currently screening for dozens of metabolic disorders as part of the newborn screening process, and if this proves to be a genuine association, it could add to the growing list of conditions we can detect early and potentially prevent progression to serious disease.” .”

Harrington, who not only led the study but also experienced the loss of her own baby to SIDS nearly three decades ago, said in the press release that until now, health experts were not sure what caused the infants’ lack of excitement. “Now that we know BChE is involved, we can start to change the outcome for these babies and make SIDS a thing of the past.”

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