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What Causes SIDS? Study Suggests Genetics May Be At Play In Sudden Infant Death Syndrome

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The cause of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) remains a medical mystery, but a new study suggests genetics may play a role.

Over a 39-year period, researchers found that siblings of infants who died of SIDS had four times the risk of sudden death compared with the general population, according to a study published in JAMA Network Open.

Dr. Richard Goldstein, director of the Pediatric Robert Sudden Death Program at Boston Children’s Hospital, said the large study reinforces previous research that suggests SIDS may be more of a medical problem than previously thought.

“The common bias is that this was a sleep accident, and the challenge for people who follow the science here is to advocate on behalf of families and look harder,” he said.

Additional Findings from the SIDS Study

The study identified 2,384 siblings of 1,540 infants who died from SIDS among 2.6 million births in Denmark between January 1978 and December 2016. The researchers found that:

  • One year later, eight siblings had died of SIDS at a median age of 2.5 months.
  • Most cases of SIDS occur within the first six months of life.
  • Boys accounted for 61% of SIDS cases.
  • Siblings of infants who die from SIDS are more likely to live in low-income households.
  • and Total population.

What is SIDS, or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome?

According to the Mayo Clinic, SIDS is the unexplained death of an apparently healthy infant less than one year old. Death usually occurs during sleep and is sometimes called crib death.

Boston Children’s Hospital says SIDS is part of a wider range of unexpected infant deaths called sudden accidental death Infancy, or SUDI, which includes infants whose cause of death is later explained.

What causes Sudden Infant Death Syndrome?

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, SIDS is the leading cause of natural death in the first year of life, accounting for approximately 3,400 accidental deaths in the U.S. each year.

But its cause remains unknown. According to the Mayo Clinic, this could come from a variety of factors:

physical factors

  • Brain deficit: The part of the brain that controls breathing and waking up is immature.
  • Low birth weight: Prematurity increases the likelihood that the baby’s brain is not yet fully developed, including the parts that control breathing and heart rate.
  • A respiratory infection, such as a cold, may cause breathing problems.

sleep environment factors

  • Sleeping on your stomach or side may make breathing more difficult.
  • Sleep on a soft surface, such as a fluffy quilt, which can block a baby’s airways.
  • Bed sharing: There is an increased risk of SIDS if an infant sleeps in the same bed as a parent, sibling, or pet.
  • Overheating: Sleeping too warm can increase a baby’s risk of SIDS.

Is SIDS hereditary?

The Danish study is not the first to find a genetic link to SIDS.However, some health expert It is believed that there is insufficient funding to support research on the topic because providers rely on safe sleep techniques to prevent SIDS.

In the 90s, public health official Begins rolling out the “Back to Sleep” initiative — now called “Safe to Sleep” — to teach caregivers to lower the risk of SIDS by putting infants to sleep on their backs.

While CDC data showed a decline in mortality, one study found that non-SIDS post-neonatal mortality followed a similar trajectory, suggesting other factors may be at play. About one-third of SIDS cases still occur in babies who sleep on their backs, Goldstein said.

New evidence continues to strengthen the likely role of genetics in SIDS, health experts say, according to a 2021 study published in JAMA Pediatrics.

“We think we’re tracking some mechanism at play,” Goldstein said.

Can SIDS be prevented?

There is no guaranteed way to prevent SIDS, but providers recommend safe sleep techniques, such as:

  • put baby to sleep on back
  • Keep the crib as bare as possible
  • Don’t overheat your baby with extra comforters and don’t cover your baby’s head
  • Let the baby sleep in the same room, but not the same bed

Health experts also recommend immunizing babies against preventable diseases.

(c) 2023 USA TODAY
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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What causes Sudden Infant Death Syndrome? Genetics may play role in SIDS, study suggests (2023, Jan. 25)
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