Scientists discover blood marker that identifies risk of sudden infant death

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A team of Australian researchers has found a biochemical marker in the blood that can help identify newborn babies who are at risk for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). According to them, the important discovery creates a path for future interventions that can prevent tragedies.

In the study, babies who died of SIDS had lower levels of an enzyme called butyrylcholinesterase (BChE) shortly after birth, the researchers said.

BChE acts on the brain stimulation pathway, and low levels would reduce a sleeping baby’s ability to wake up or respond to the environment.

The findings change the landscape and offer not only hope for the future, but also answers to the past, study leader Carmel Harrington of Westmead Children’s Hospital in Australia said in a statement.

“A seemingly healthy baby sleeping and not waking up is every parent’s nightmare, and until now there was absolutely no way of knowing which baby would go through this,” Harrington said. “But that is no longer the case. We discovered the first marker that indicates vulnerability before death.”

Using dried blood smears collected at birth as part of a newborn screening program, Harrington’s team compared BChE levels in 26 babies who later died of SIDS, 41 who died of other causes and 655 who survived.

SIDS is the unexplained death of an apparently healthy baby during sleep. Harrington lost his own son to SIDS 29 years ago and has dedicated his career to researching the condition, according to the statement.

Source: CNN Brasil

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