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Breakthrough of SIDS?  Possible biomarker of sudden infant death syndrome identified


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Babies at risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) could be identified through a biochemical marker, according to a new study published in The Lancet’s eBioMedicine.

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.

Researchers investigating the cause of SIDS at Westmead Children’s Hospital (CHW) in Australia have said they have identified the first biochemical marker that could help detect babies at higher risk of sudden infant death syndrome as they are still alive.

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 this is no longer the case. We found the first marker indicating vulnerability before death. “, Harrington said in a press release.

Doctors applaud a potential breakthrough in the mystery of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
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According to the study, Australian researchers analyzed the levels of a specific enzyme called butyrylcholinesterase (BChE), in 722 drops of dried blood (DBS) collected at birth as part of a newborn screening program. They measured BChE levels in infants dying of SIDS and other causes, each compared to 10 surviving infants with the same date of birth and gender.

Investigators found lower levels of BChE in babies who died of SIDS compared to living control groups of infants and other infant deaths unrelated to SIDS, according to the published report.

“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.

Breakthrough of SIDS?  Possible biomarker of sudden infant death syndrome identified

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

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’re not happy. Usually, if a baby is faced with a life-threatening situation, such as difficulty breathing while sleeping because he is on his stomach, he wakes up and cries. . What this research shows is that some babies don’t have that same robust arousal response,” Harrington said.

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Breakthrough of SIDS?  Possible biomarker of sudden infant death syndrome identified

One doctor noted that the study sample size 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 results are interesting and important. Although the sample size is limited, the study suggests that lower levels of this enzyme are associated with a higher risk of sudden infant death syndrome. Importantly, this could present an opportunity for both earlier detection of risk factors during the perinatal period, and could provide scientists and physicians with an opportunity to discover an intervention.

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Harris added: “Currently we screen for dozens of metabolic disorders as part of the newborn screening process, and if this turns out to be a true association, it could add to the growing list of disorders we can detect early. and possibly prevent progression to severe disease. »

Harrington, who not only led the study but also lived through the loss of her own baby to SIDS nearly three decades ago, said in the press release that so far experts from the health were unaware of the cause of lack of arousal in infants. “Now that we know BChE is involved, we can start to change the fate of these babies and make SIDS a thing of the past. »

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