Australian researchers have discovered a biomarker that can detect babies who are at higher risk of SIDS Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) while they are still alive.
SIDS is the unexplained death of a healthy infant under the age of one year while sleeping. According to 2019 data, 32 infant deaths occur per 1000 live births in India. The rate of unexpected infant deaths in the United States in 2019 was 90.1 deaths per 100,000 live births. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, SIDS is one of the leading causes of unexpected infant deaths in the United States, though rates have decreased from 130.3 deaths per 100,000 live births in 1990 to 33.3 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2019.
Butyrylcholinesterase (BChE) was identified as a biochemical marker that can help prevent infant death by a team at the Children’s Hospital at Westmead (CHW).
What does the research say about SIDS?
The team examined BChE activity in 722 Dried Blood Spots (DBS) taken at birth as part of the Newborn Screening Programme in the study, which was published in The Lancets eBioMedicine. BChE was measured in SIDS infants as well as infants who died from other causes, and each was compared to 10 surviving infants of the same date of birth and gender.
What is the function of BChE?
BChE plays an important role in the brain’s arousal pathway, and researchers believe a lack of it indicates an arousal deficit, which reduces an infant’s ability to wake up or respond to their surroundings, making them vulnerable to SIDS.
According to lead author Dr Carmel Harrington, a research student at CHW who lost her own child to SIDS 29 years ago, BChE levels were significantly lower in babies who died of SIDS compared to living controls and other infant deaths.