Australian researchers have made an important breakthrough on sudden infant death syndrome, which claims the lives of dozens of babies each year.
University of Adelaide scientists have identified a link between SIDS and breathing problems after studying medical data of 176 deceased children.
They found signs in the brains of babies who died of SIDS similar to those in children who had died of accidental asphyxiation.
It may have already saved one life – doctors identified sleep apnoea in a sibling of one SIDS victim and were able to develop precautions to avoid a similar tragedy.
Latest figures show SIDS took 63 Australian children’s lives in 2011. But despite years of research and preventative guidelines, its cause remains unknown.
The Adelaide study compared 176 children who died from head trauma, infection, drowning, asphyxia and SIDS, checking for staining on the brain caused by amyloid precursor protein (APP).
Project leader Professor Roger Byard told The Advertiser all 48 SIDS deaths examined showed APP staining in the brain.
“This is a very important result,” Prof Byard told the newspaper. “It helps to show that asphyxia rather than infection or trauma is more likely to be involved in SIDS deaths.”
He said the staining did not necessarily reveal the cause of death, but could help “clarify the mechanism”.
“Because of the remarkable similarity in SIDS and asphyxia cases, the question is now: Is there an asphyxia-based mechanism of death in SIDS? We don’t know the answer to that yet, but it looks very promising,” Prof Byard said.
The study, led by researcher Lisbeth Jensen, was paid for by SIDS and Kids SA and published in the Neuropathology and Applied Neurobiology journal.
SIDS and Kids recommends:
- Sleep baby on back from birth
- Sleep baby with head and face uncovered
- Keep baby in a smoke-free environment before and after birth
- Provide a safe sleeping environment day and night
- Sleep baby in their own safe sleeping place – in the same room as an adult – for the first six to twelve months
- Breastfeed baby