Breakthrough: cause of sudden infant death syndrome discovered

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is the unexpected, sudden death of an infant before their first birthday. Despite thorough investigations, the cause of death could not be clarified or not clearly clarified. Until now, we only knew that deaths, for example, occur more frequently in winter and after colds, or that the affected babies are often lying on their stomachs.

Results as “Gamechanger”

As part of the study that Lancet eBio Medicine was published, Harrington’s team examined over 700 blood samples from infants who had died from SIDS or other causes, as well as from healthy babies. It turned out that the enzyme butyrylcholinesterase (BChE) was significantly lower in the SIDS babies than in the others. This plays an important role in the central nervous system and its deficiency may reduce the ability to wake up and respond to the environment.

The researchers now see the results as a game changer to prevent such deaths in the future. “Babies have powerful mechanisms for letting us know when they’re unwell,” Harrington told Sydney Children’s Hospital Network. “When a child is exposed to a life-threatening situation, such as shortness of breath while sleeping because they are on their stomach, they wake up and cry.” The new findings now prove that this ability is weaker in some babies.

“Now that we know that this is linked to BChE, we can change the outcome of such situations for affected babies and make SIDS a thing of the past.”

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