The tragic death of her little boy caused by SIDS leads a sleep expert to make a world-first breakthrough that could identify babies likely to suffer the condition before it’s too late.

After her two-year-old son, Damien died of the disease in 1991, Dr. Carmel Harrington, who has Ph.D. in Sleep Medicine from Sydney University in Australia, dedicated her career to researching sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

And now, 29 years later, Dr. Harrington’s research is a world-first breakthrough that could potentially lead to the prevention of SIDS.

Dr. Harrington teamed up with The Children’s Hospital at Westmead in New South Wales, wherein they successfully identified the first biochemical marker that indicates a baby’s vulnerability to SIDS while they are still alive.

Researchers at the SIDS and Sleep Apnoea Research Group at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead Australia released findings in the June 2022 edition of The Lancet’s eBioMedicine from a long-range study looking at possible markers for SIDS in newborn babies.

Dr. Harrington’s study has identified the first biochemical marker that could help detect babies more at risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) while they still live.

“An apparently healthy baby going to sleep and not waking up is every parent’s nightmare and until now there was absolutely no way of knowing which infant would succumb. But that’s not the case anymore,” Harrington asserted.

Researchers led by Harrington identified Butyrylcholinesterase (BChE) as the biochemical marker that could help solve SIDS.

Here’s what Sydney Children’s Hospital Network reported:

“The study found BChE levels were significantly lower in babies who subsequently died of SIDS compared to living controls and other infant deaths. BChE plays a major role in the brain’s arousal pathway and researchers believe its deficiency likely indicates an arousal deficit, which reduces an infant’s ability to wake or respond to the external environment, causing vulnerability to SIDS.”

And the study published in The Lancet’s eBioMedicine analyzed BChE activity in 722 dried blood spots (DBS) taken at birth as part of the Newborn Screening Program. The study stated:

In recent years, the incidence of SIDS has been more than halved by public health campaigns however, despite this dramatic decline in incidence, SIDS remains the major cause of sudden and unexpected death in infants in western countries, contributing to almost 50% of all post-neonatal deaths.

More details of this breakthrough from the Daily Wire report:

The study explained that widespread current belief of the causes of SIDS rest on three simultaneous factors: “a vulnerable infant, a critical developmental period for homeostatic control and an exogenous stressor,” adding, “Despite intensive research over the past decades, identification of any specific vulnerability has remained elusive.”

Harrington stated, “Babies have a very powerful mechanism to let us know when they are not happy. Usually, if a baby is confronted with a life-threatening situation, such as difficulty breathing during sleep because they are on their tummies, they will arouse and cry out. What this research shows is that some babies don’t have this same robust arousal response.”

“This has long been thought to be the case, but up to now we didn’t know what was causing the lack of arousal,” she commented. “Now that we know that BChE is involved we can begin to change the outcome for these babies and make SIDS a thing of the past.”

“This discovery has opened up the possibility for intervention and finally gives answers to parents who have lost their children so tragically. These families can now live with the knowledge that this was not their fault,” she concluded.

Sources: Dailywire, Sydney Children’s Hospital Network

About The Author

Related Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.