LOS ANGELES – Scientists have published a new study that may offer groundbreaking insight into sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), an event that has previously baffled the medical community.
SIDS is the unexplained death of a seemingly healthy baby under the age of one, usually while sleeping, according to the Mayo Clinic. The CDC reports that SIDS accounted for 37% of infant deaths in the United States in 2019.
Now researchers from Westmead Children’s Hospital in Sydney, Australia have been able to confirm the cause of SIDS which usually occurs when infants die suddenly in their sleep.
The medical community previously believed that SIDS was caused by a complication in the part of an infant’s brain that controls breathing regulation during sleep.
In the latest study, researchers found that infants who died of SIDS had lower levels of an enzyme known as butyrylcholinesterase (BChE).
Scientists believe that this enzyme helps regulate brain pathways that govern a person’s breathing, confirming what scientists originally hypothesized.
“We conclude that a previously unidentified cholinergic deficit, identifiable as abnormal -BChEsa, is present at birth in SIDS babies and represents a measurable and specific vulnerability prior to their death,” the researchers said.
Dr. Carmel Harrington, honorary researcher who led the study, said its findings were game-changing. Harrington said the study provides an explanation for SIDS and hope for preventing deaths associated with this mysterious disease.
“A seemingly healthy baby who falls asleep and doesn’t wake up is every parent’s nightmare and until now there was absolutely no way of knowing which baby would succumb. But that’s no longer the We found the first marker indicating vulnerability before death,” Harrington said in a press release.
The researchers explained that BChE plays a vital role in the brain’s wakefulness pathway. They further explained that a BChE deficiency probably suggests an arousal deficit in babies, which would reduce their abilities to wake up or react to the outside environment, making them susceptible to SIDS.
“Babies have a very powerful mechanism for letting us know when they are unhappy. Usually, if a baby is faced with a life-threatening situation, such as difficulty breathing during sleep because they are on their stomach, they wakes up and cries. . What this research shows is that some babies don’t have that 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 results of the study are interesting and important. Although the sample size is limited, the study seems to indicate that lower levels of this enzyme are associated with a higher risk of sudden infant death syndrome. doctors an opportunity to discover a intervention.
How parents can prevent SIDS, according to pediatricians:
- Place your baby on their back for all hours of sleep
- Avoid leaving loose blankets that could suffocate the child
- Keep infants in parents’ or guardians’ sleeping area for at least six months, but not in adult beds
FOX News contributed to this story.