Reuters

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

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NEW YORK – A team of Australian researchers have identified a biochemical marker in the blood that could help identify newborns at risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), a breakthrough they said creates a path for future interventions to prevent a tragedy.

Researchers, in a study published in The Lancet’s eBio Medicine https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352396422002225, found that 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.

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This is the first evidence that “babies who succumb to SIDS are different from when they are born,” study leader Dr Carmel Harrington of Westmead Children’s Hospital in Australia told Reuters by email.

“It seems that a healthy baby who sleeps and doesn’t wake up is every parent’s nightmare,” she said.

In the published study, researchers said the enzyme abnormality is a “specific and measurable vulnerability” to SIDS that has not been previously recognized.

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

Other experts said Saturday in the New England Journal of Medicine https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp2119221 that researchers are “just halfway” to achieving the goal of fully understanding SIDS and being able to prevent it. (NEJM).

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They warn that preventative practices such as putting babies on their backs and keeping cribs uncovered must continue.

The new study is very good, said Dr. Richard Goldstein of Children’s Hospital Boston, lead author of the inaugural NEJM, but “it shouldn’t change this behaviour.”

Using dry blood spots taken at birth as part of a newborn screening program, researchers compared BChE levels in 26 infants who subsequently died of SIDS, 41 infants who died of other causes, and 655 infants who survived.

The fact that levels of the enzyme were, on average, significantly lower in infants who died of sudden infant death syndrome, suggests that infants of these nations were inherently prone to malfunctions of the autonomic nervous system, which controls involuntary and unconscious functions in the body, the researchers said.

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Her team said failure to wake up when appropriate “has always been considered a major component of infant vulnerability” toward SIDS, adding that more research must urgently be done to determine whether routine measurement of BChE can help prevent future SIDS deaths. .

Even if BChE was confirmed to play a role, Goldstein said, “that would not be the complete solution.”

Research has indicated other potential biological contributors, such as genes, maternal smoking, and abnormal levels in the nervous system that signal the chemical serotonin.

Harrington, who lost her child to sudden infant death syndrome 29 years ago, has dedicated her career to researching the condition.

“There is a lot of work to be done,” she said. “We expect the next phases of research to take 3-5 years.” (Reporting by Nancy Lapid; Editing by Caroline Homer and Bill Bercrot)

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2022-05-16 16:51:20

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