Babies & Kids
New Study Helps Spot Babies at Risk for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome
One of the worst nightmares for any parent is to experience SIDS—short for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. According to CDC, about 1,250 babies in the United States succumbed to this in 2019. Around 1,180 deaths were due to unknown causes while 960 were due to accidental suffocation and strangulation in bed. In the Philippines, the infant mortality was about 22 deaths per 1,000 live births.
This is why pediatricians and health experts always advise that babies under a year old sleep in the same room as their parents but separately in their cribs. The crib should only have a firm mattress with a fitted sheet—no pillows, blankets, or toys. Additionally, babies should only sleep on their backs at all times—naps included.
New Study on Sudden Infant Death Syndrome
But in a new study from Australia and published in The Lancet Medical Journal, researchers discovered a lower presence of an enzyme called BChE, which helps regulate a baby’s breathing, in babies whose deaths were categorized as SIDS. While the cause of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome remains unknown and is believed to depend on several factors or causes, this finding is crucial in research. In fact, it can offer healthcare professionals a better understanding of infant sleep-related deaths.
However, while the study sounds promising, it was based on a very limited sample—just 26 babies who had died of SIDS. Various factors could explain their different levels of BChE, says Dr. Rachel Moon, a professor of pediatrics and SIDS research at the University of Virginia.
Closure for Grieving Parents
But this study shows that doctors may be getting closer to understanding Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. It can also provide some form of closure to grieving parents. “It’s been very hopeful news, in the sense that we can now identify even more children who may be at risk for the potential for SIDS, or at least having apneas when they go to sleep at nighttime,” said Dr. Pakkay Ngai, a pediatric sleep specialist at Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital in Hackensack, New Jersey.
“They looked at blood spots as part of their newborn screening campaign. And compared children who went on to die from SIDS and compared them to controls. They found that this enzyme level of butyrylcholinesterase (BChE) had a reduced activity level compared to normal children,” Dr. Ngai said.
Like Dr. Moon, Dr. Ngai agrees that more research needs to be done. “We definitely have to sort of validate the study and we have to do more research into it,” he said.