SIDS research identifies biomarker in victims of sudden infant death syndrome

Researchers think they are closer to finding out why about 1,000 babies suddenly die every year. Scientists have pinpointed a biomarker that babies who died from sudden infant death syndrome had.

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A study, led by Australian researchers, was recently published in the medical journal eBioMedicine.

They looked at the dried blood spots collected at birth as part of a newborn screening program. The breakdown of the infants in the small study had 67 babies who died of SIDS according to coroner’s reports, five babies who died and whose deaths were reclassified as SIDS, babies who died from something other than SIDS and 10 babies who lived. Babies who died from SIDS had lower levels of an enzyme called Butyrylcholinesterase (BChE) than ones who lived, researchers said.

BChE is believed to signal the brain to take a breath, ABC News reported.

“Babies have a very powerful mechanism to let us know when they are not happy. Usually, if a baby is confronted with a life-threatening situation, such as difficulty breathing during sleep because they are on their tummies, they will arouse and cry out. What this research shows is that some babies don’t have this same robust arousal response,” Dr. Carmel Harrington, who led the study, said, according to Fox News.

SIDS occurs in a normal, healthy baby who is less than a year old, according to the Mayo Clinic.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that SIDS caused 37% of infant deaths in the U.S. in 2019, Fox News reported.

The Mayo Clinic said there is no treatment or symptoms, prior to news of the research, the cause was not known.

However, the Mayo Clinic there are steps that parents and caregivers can take to lessen the risk of SIDS, including:

  • Place a child on its back to sleep
  • Don’t sleep in the same bed as the infant.
  • Remove soft items that could block an infant’s airway including pillows, toys and comforters
  • Don’t cause the baby to get too warm.
  • Offer a pacifier but not with a strap or string attached and after the baby’s 3 to 4 weeks old if you’re breastfeeding.
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