Latest Publication By Dr. Harrington On Sudden Infant Death Syndrome! Would It Help To End Unexpected Losses?
Every parent’s worst nightmare is the sudden death of a seemingly healthy baby. However, children aged one month to one year are particularly vulnerable to SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome), a condition in which the baby dies while sleeping with no apparent symptoms.
In the United States, approximately 3400 children die unexpectedly due to SIDS every year. Parents are always taken aback by their child’s unexpected death and have numerous questions for doctors and health researchers.
The CHW (Children’s Hospital at Westmead) researcher team has made significant progress in detecting protein in SIDS-prone children. Researchers at CHW made a significant finding by identifying a biochemical marker that can detect if a baby is vulnerable to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
During this study, scientists collected 722 dried blood spots (DBS) at birth as part of the Newborn Screening Program. They compared SIDS and other causes of infant death to surviving infants of the same date of birth and gender. As a result of this study, scientists found that the Butyrylcholinesterase enzyme level in the babies’ blood can predict the children’s unexpected deaths.
According to an article published by Carmel Therese Harrington in The Lancet’s eBioMedicine on May 6, 2022, infants with SIDS had significantly lower levels of a Butyrylcholinesterase (BChE) enzyme.
As reported in the findings of their study, infants with lower BChE levels are at a much higher risk of SIDS. Researchers believe that a lack of BChE in the brain can cause an arousal deficit, which increases an infant’s susceptibility to SIDS by reducing the baby’s ability to respond to external stimuli.
According to Carmel Harrington, lead researcher and Honorary Research Fellow at CHW, the findings provide hope for future control of newborn unexpected death as well as answers to past SIDS deaths questions. She put forward her research in the form of the following statement:
“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 infant would succumb. But that’s not the case anymore. We have found the first marker to indicate vulnerability prior to death,”
“Babies have a very powerful mechanism to let us know when they are not happy. Usually, if a baby is confronted with a life-threatening situation, such as difficulty breathing during sleep because they are on their tummies, they will arouse and cry out. What this research shows is that some babies don’t have this same robust arousal response.”
“This has long been thought to be the case, but up to now we didn’t know what was causing the lack of arousal. Now that we know that BChE is involved, we can begin to change the outcome for these babies and make SIDS a thing of the past.”
Based on this research and the statement from Dr. Harrington, we can assume that SIDS may be ending soon, and we will be able to identify SIDS at the time of childbirth and take preventive measures to protect the child. Undoubtedly, this is a game-changing discovery and can provide answers to past questions that affected parents had.