Blood marker identified for children at risk of SIDS described as ‘breakthrough’

A newborn baby holds a nurse’s finger in the maternity ward of Children’s Hospital in Kabul, Afghanistan, October 24, 2021. REUTERS/Jorge Silva/

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NEW YORK (Reuters) – A team of Australian researchers has identified a biochemical marker in the blood that could help identify newborns at risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), a feat they said creates a path into a future tragedy. preventive interventions.

In their study, the researchers said, babies who died of SIDS had lower levels of an enzyme called butyrylcholinesterase (BChE) soon after birth. BChE plays a major role in the waking pathway in the brain, and lower levels would reduce a sleeping infant’s ability to wake up or respond to its environment.

The findings are game-changing and offer not only hope for the future, but also answers to the past, study leader Dr Carmel Harrington of Westmead Children’s Hospital in Australia said in a statement.

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“A baby who looks healthy when he sleeps and doesn’t wake up is every parent’s nightmare, and as of now there is absolutely no way of knowing which baby will succumb,” Harrington said. “But that is not the case anymore. We have found the first sign of weakness before death.”

Using dry blood spots taken at birth as part of a newborn screening program, Harrington’s team compared BChE levels in 26 infants who subsequently died of sudden infant death syndrome, 41 infants who died of other causes, and 655 infants who survived.

The fact that the levels of the enzyme were significantly lower in children who later died of SIDS suggests that children of these countries were inherently susceptible to malfunctions of the autonomic nervous system, which controls involuntary and unconscious functions in the body, the researchers said.

The Sydney Children’s Hospital Network in Australia called the discovery a “first global breakthrough”.

The research team said in the online journal The Lancet of Medicine.

Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is the unexplained death of a seemingly healthy baby during sleep. According to the statement, Harrington lost her child to SIDS 29 years ago, and has dedicated her career to researching the condition.

The investigators said more research “needs urgent action” to determine whether routine measurement of BChE could help prevent future SIDS deaths.

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(Nancy Lapid reports). Editing by Caroline Homer and Bill Bercrot

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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