Sudden infant death syndrome, the unexpected, unexplained death of a baby under the age of one year, is by definition enigmatic. However, researchers are coming closer to understanding some of the risk factors and mechanisms that contribute to SIDS.
A common theory lists three possible factors. First, infants are in a critical stage of development during the first year of life. The baby is then exposed to stressors, such as lying on his stomach, which can lower oxygen levels in the blood and increase carbon dioxide levels. And third, infants have underlying abnormalities that make it difficult for them to survive the traumatic event.
a study A paper published Thursday in the Journal of Neuropathology & Experimental Neurology points to one such abnormality.
Researchers at Children’s Hospital Boston and Radi Children’s Hospital in San Diego have found that certain receptors in the brain may be involved in helping babies gasp for air. Changes were seen in some infants who died of SIDS. The receptor in question is part of the serotonin system and plays an important role in regulating involuntary bodily functions such as heart rate, respiration and blood pressure.
SIDS usually occurs during sleep in infants and, although rare, it is the leading cause of death in infants aged 1 month to 1 year in the United States. to cause About 1,400 infants died from SIDS in 2020.
To better understand the symptoms, researchers in the new study examined brain tissue from 58 infants who died of SIDS between 2004 and 2011, and used those samples to diagnose conditions such as pneumonia and heart disease. Comparisons were made with brain tissue from 12 infants who died from other causes. . The results showed that infants who died of SIDS likely had altered serotonin-related brain receptors compared with controls.
Robin Haynes, lead author of the study and a researcher at Boston Children’s Hospital, said babies normally have defensive responses like gasping for air if they don’t get enough oxygen during sleep. .
“They wake up and go through what’s called auto-resuscitation and start breathing,” she says.
But in SIDS, that response may not occur, perhaps because the brain’s receptors are altered. Blood flow and oxygenation may be compromised if the infant is unable to recover breathing and heart rate.
Various theories about SIDS
The Boston-based research group behind the new study has been studying the relationship between SIDS and serotonin for nearly 30 years, publishing multiple papers based on different analyzes of the same brain tissue samples.
These samples are some of the only samples available to SIDS researchers. But the small sample size makes it difficult to draw strong inferences about potential causes and risk factors, according to Dr. Jose Javier Otero, chief of neuropathology at Ohio State University School of Medicine.
“From a scientific standpoint, it takes courage to even try to draw conclusions,” Otello said.
Still, researchers have long suspected that serotonin plays a role in SIDS, given its connection to respiration.
“It makes a lot of sense that serotonin plays an important role,” said Dr. Debra Weas Meyer, director of the Department of Pediatric Autonomic Neurology at Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago. “The question is, is there one player?”
Genetics also likely play a role in an infant’s vulnerability to SIDS, but scientists aren’t sure how, Weasmayer said.
Another factor could be infections that infants acquire early in life, said Dr. Michelle Caraballo, a pediatric pulmonologist at Children’s Health in North Texas and an assistant professor at the University of Texas Southwestern University. It is said that there is
“The incidence of SIDS is highest in the winter, and it is also the time when infants are most susceptible to viral infections,” she said.
How Parents Can Lower Their Baby’s Risk
There are no tests to determine if an infant is potentially predisposed to SIDS, and because the cause is unknown, there are no treatments to reduce the risk of infants. But Haynes said researchers haven’t given up on that possibility.
“Once we identify infants with specific abnormalities, the goal is to someday get preventive therapy, but I can’t say what that will look like yet,” she says.
But there are still ways to protect yourself from SIDS.
CDC It is recommended Parents should always place their sleeping baby on their back. Your baby’s sleeping area should be firm and flat and free of soft toys and bedding such as blankets, pillows and bumper pads. Parents should not cover the baby’s head while sleeping and ideally the baby should sleep in the same room as her parents until at least 6 months of age.
American Academy of Pediatrics suggest Once your baby is accustomed to breastfeeding, give him a pacifier at nap time and at bedtime.
Breastfeeding has been shown to reduce the risk of SIDS, but alcohol and tobacco use during pregnancy may increase risk.
“We want people to follow the safest sleep guidelines possible,” Caraballo said. “The really scary thing is that even if you do everything right, the baby can still die. After all, in most cases, the exact cause of death is unknown.”