Scientists Provide A New Set of Causes for Sudden Death of Infants

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome

Scientists have identified new potential causes of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) in a study published on Thursday in the Journal of Neuropathology & Experimental Neurology.

The peer-reviewed study examined biological abnormalities in the bodies of 70 infants who had died of SIDS. SIDS is defined as the sudden death of an apparently healthy baby before their first birthday, typically occurring during sleep.

In the United States, SIDS affects 103 out of every 100,000 live births and is the leading cause of post-neonatal deaths. In Israel, 45 babies die annually from SIDS, according to the Health Ministry.

The researchers found abnormalities in the 2A/C serotonin receptors within the infants’ bodies. These receptors play a role in protective sleep functions. The study suggests that SIDS may result from a combination of abnormal receptor activity, developmental timing, and external stressors.

Infants are particularly at risk of SIDS when their cardio-respiratory systems are not fully developed, they have biological abnormalities, or they experience external stress while sleeping, the researchers noted.

Robin Haynes, a researcher involved in the study, explained, “The work presented builds upon previous research showing abnormalities in the serotonergic system of some SIDS infants.

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (Photo: Getty Images)

Although we have identified abnormalities in the serotonin 2A/C receptor in SIDS, the relationship between these abnormalities and the cause of death remains unclear.”

Haynes continued, emphasizing the need for further investigation into how these abnormalities affect the broader network of serotonin and non-serotonin receptors that regulate vital functions like cardiac and respiratory control under stress.

Currently, there are no means to identify infants with these biological abnormalities, underscoring the ongoing importance of safe sleep practices.

The Health Ministry has issued guidelines for parents aimed at preventing SIDS. Recommendations include placing babies on their backs to sleep, using a firm mattress with a safety seal, and keeping babies in the parents’ room until they are at least 6 months old (preferably a year).

Cribs should be free of pillows and toys, with the baby’s head uncovered and blankets secured under the mattress at armpit level. The room temperature should be maintained between 22-23 degrees Celsius to reduce the risk of SIDS.

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