Scientists may have found a cause for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome

Scientists have identified new possible causes of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) in a new study published Thursday.

The peer-reviewed study, which was published in the Journal of Neuropathology & Experimental Neurologylooked at the biological abnormalities in the bodies of 70 babies who had died of cot death.

SIDS is the phenomenon in which an apparently healthy baby suddenly dies before its first birthday. The deaths usually occur while the baby is sleeping.

The condition, which occurs in 103 of every 100,000 live births in the US, is the leading cause of postneonatal death in the US. According to the Ministry of Health, 45 babies die of SIDS every year in Israel.

What possible cause of SIDS have researchers found?

In the babies’ bodies, researchers found abnormalities in the 2A/C serotonin receptors. This receptor is responsible for protective sleep functions.

Baby (illustrative). (credit: Ignacio Campo/Unsplash)

The researchers believe that SIDS is the result of a culmination of the abnormal receptor, developmental timing, and external stressors.

A baby is at risk for SIDS if its cardio and respiratory systems are not fully developed, if it has a biological abnormality and/or if it sleeps in a way that causes external stress, the researchers said.

“The work presented builds on previous work from our lab and others that showed abnormalities in the serotonergic system of some SIDS infants,” said Robin Haynes, a researcher on the study.

“While we have identified serotonin 2A/C receptor abnormalities in SIDS, the relationship between the abnormalities and cause of death remains unknown. Much work remains to determine the consequences of abnormalities in this receptor in the context of a larger network of serotonin and non-serotonin receptors that protect vital functions in cardiac and respiratory control when challenged. We currently have no means to identify infants with biological abnormalities in the serotonergic system. Adherence to safe sleep practices therefore remains critical.”

How can SIDS be prevented?

The Department of Health has released a guide for parents to protect their baby from SIDS.

The ministry recommends placing babies on their backs when they go to sleep. Babies must be placed on a hard mattress with a seal of approval. They must also sleep in their parents’ room until the baby is 6 months old, although the ministry insists a year would be preferable.

The guide insists that cots should be empty of everything, including pillows and toys. The baby’s head should be completely uncovered. If you use a blanket, the blanket should be tucked under the mattress at armpit level.

The ministry recommends keeping the room at a temperature range of 22-23 degrees.

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