Explained | What a new study on Sudden Infant Death Syndrome says about the disease

From a study led by Dr. Carmel Harrington found that BChE enzyme levels in infants who died from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome – the unexpected death of an apparently healthy child – were significantly low

From a study led by Dr. Carmel Harrington found that BChE enzyme levels in infants who died from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome – the unexpected death of an apparently healthy child – were significantly low

The story so far: A team of researchers in Australia has identified a biochemical marker in the blood that could help identify newborn babies at risk for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

According to the findings of the study, babies who died of SIDS shortly after birth showed lower levels of the enzyme butyrylcholinesterase (BChE). A low level of the BChE enzyme affects a sleeping baby’s ability to wake up or respond to its environment. The enzyme is an important part of the body’s autonomic nervous system and regulates unconscious and involuntary functions.

“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,” said study leader Dr. Carmel Harrington of The Children’s Hospital at Westmead in Australia in a statement. dr. Harrington lost her own child to SIDS 29 years ago and has been researching the condition ever since.

What is SIDS?

Sudden infant death syndrome is the unexpected death of an apparently healthy child. It usually occurs while the baby is asleep, although in rare cases it can also occur while the child is awake. The condition is also known as SIDS.

Newborn babies born prematurely or with a low weight at birth are at greater risk of SIDS. The exact cause of SIDS is unknown, although the revelations from the new research look promising.

What does the new research say?

In an effort to determine the cause of SIDS, the researchers used dried bloodstains from newborn babies and screened the samples for BChE level and total protein content. Of the samples, 26 babies died from SIDS, 41 died from other causes, and 655 babies survived.

It was noted that the BChE level in infants who died of SIDS was significantly lower than that in the surviving infants. The study also states that previously conducted studies have shown that low BChE activity is associated with severe systemic inflammation and significantly higher mortality following sepsis and cardiac events. Prior to this research on SIDS, inflammation was thought to be a factor in SIDS cases. The study adds that mild inflammatory changes on the airway walls of the lungs were seen in SIDS babies as early as 1889.

Preterm infants were considered to have a higher risk of SIDS, although a 1957 study evaluating BChE in childhood showed that there was no difference in the levels of the enzyme in preterm and mature newborn infants.

The new study also pointed out that smoking during pregnancy is associated with a significant increase in SIDS.

Limitations of the studies

Although BChE levels may be a possible cause of SIDS, the study indicates that the samples were more than two years old and therefore would not accurately reflect BChE-specific activity in freshly dried blood samples. The researchers also added that despite analyzing more than 600 control samples, they are unaware of how common the abnormality is in the wider population. In addition, the study did not use autopsy data from the study subjects, but the coroners used the diagnosis whenever possible.

(With input from agencies)

SOURCE – www.thehindu.com

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